New Dayton Air Show chairman takes the controls

Scott Buchanan started attending the Dayton Air Show in the 1970s.

Now, the 49-year-old who grew up in Dayton and lives in Vandalia has the controls of the flying spectacle as chairman of the U.S. Air and Trade Show, the group that runs the event at Dayton International Airport.

“I’m still pinching myself,” the Ohio Air National Guard veteran said at a Thursday press conference inside the Ohio Masonic Home, where he is chief executive officer in Springfield.

A USA Today readers poll named the Dayton Air Show among the top 10 in the country this year.

The air show, organized and run by hundreds of volunteers, has about a $2.6 million economic impact, according to the Dayton and Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

RELATED: Dayton Air Show sees drop in attendance

Buchanan is taking over at a time when the air show has battled fluctuating attendance because of weather and the unexpected cancellations of headline performers in recent years.

In 2016, the Navy’s Blue Angels scrubbed a Dayton appearance after a team aviator’s fatal crash while practicing air show routines in Tennessee. The Dayton show may attract roughly 70,000 spectators a weekend, but 51,000 people attended then, according to air show estimates.

In June this year, the Air Force Thunderbirds canceled hours before the weekend show was to launch after a team pilot in a twin-seat F-16D Thunderbirds fighter jet, which had a crew member as a passenger, slid off a runway and flipped into a grassy area at Dayton International Airport. The pilot, who was the team narrator, was hospitalized after the accident. A record 2.7-inch rainfall the day before the air show launched caused vehicles to be rerouted to paved parking lots and off saturated, grassy fields at or near the airport and led to parking delays, officials have said.

The air show reported 44,000 spectators this year, down about 30 percent from what had been expected.

RELATED: Dayton Air Show ranks among 10 best in nation, poll says

“It’s very important to us to have a jet team,” Buchanan said. “We’re very fortunate in this area to be able to attract the acts that we do. It’s been unreal the last few years when we think about rains, which we’ve had a lot (of for) two or three years, or losing a jet team. We still have a very high quality air show and very good attendance, which allows the air show to be (financially) sustainable.”

The Blue Angels were set to return to the Vectren Dayton Air Show in 2018, along with Tora! Tora! Tora, a Commemorative Air Force re-enactment of the Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor. Cincinnati-based Redline Airshows will return and West Coast aerobatic newcomer Vicky Benzing is set to make a first appearance in Dayton.

Buchanan said he was planning no major changes.

“I’m a big fan (of) if: it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

He has been on the air show’s governing board since 2012, serving as both vice treasurer and a member of the executive committee.

He replaces Michael Emoff, who at 14 years at the helm was the longest serving chairman since the air show took flight in 1975.

RELATED: Air show thrills despite Thunderbirds cancellation

“It’s hard to leave a post that you’re really comfortable in, but it’s just somebody else’s turn to enjoy this particular spot,” Emoff said in a telephone interview.

The outgoing chairman will remain on the board. Emoff said changes under his tenure brought more stability as did canceling an unprofitable trade show at the expo center at Dayton International Airport in 2005 and 2006.

When he joined the board in 1999, he said, “we were not doing well. The shows were tough and sustainability was tough” and the trade show was struggling.

“When I took over, we started to build our way up to a much more manageable show,” he said. “Even in a bad show (with low attendance), we would break even or make money even without jet teams.”

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