PHOTOS: Dayton Air Show awes crowd despite rain, clouds

Beavercreek graduate and Thunderbird pilot signs autographs for fans.

Leaving last year’s cancellation firmly behind, the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show opened its gates Saturday, welcoming a crowd of returning spectators that perhaps approached normal attendance.

Overcast skies, with light and sometimes steady rain, lowered aerial performances, but cancelled none of them. The triumphant return of the Air Force Thunderbirds, including Beavercreek High School graduate Maj. Kyle Oliver, capped the day, with the squadron’s six F-16 Fighting Falcons soaring above the crowd.

“We’re very happy with the first day,” said Terry Grevious, executive director of the air show. “Things went very well for us. We had a good crowd. We had a little bit of rain, but the rain wasn’t bad. Overall, we’re pleased with it.”

All flights took off as planned, even if some were lowered a bit. The ceiling (the height of the lowest clouds) was placed at about 9,300 feet at 12:11 p.m., not long after the National Anthem and the opening flag drop.

“We had to do a little lower show in some cases because of the cloud bank, but some people like the lower shows,” Grevious said.



He had no precise attendance figures, but he estimated attendance to be “maybe not normal, but it was a very good crowd and close to normal.” (Show organizers typically don’t offer precise figures until after the Sunday show.)

Forecasts call for Sunday to be warmer and perhaps rainier. Still, Grevious said the show — called “the greatest above Earth” by Scott Buchanan, the show’s chairman —will go on.

Following his show with the Thunderbirds, Oliver signed autographs and talked to friends, family and fans.

“When I was your age, I came to this air show many times and always dreamed of being a fighter pilot. Keep on striving for your goals,” Oliver told a young boy waiting for his autograph.

Alyssa and Jason Cobb made a 90-minute drive from Lancaster to Dayton International Airport.

“We’re pilots, and we just love aviation,” Alyssa said. “And after a year of no air shows, it’s great to be back.”

“We’re really excited to see the helicopters and just to see people getting out and enjoying the day,” said Katey Gallagher, who drove 90 minutes from Morrow, Ohio with her husband and children. “It’s really refreshing.”

Many of the volunteers and performers were seeing each other for the first time since the summer of 2019.

“This is like a family reunion,” said Mike Haverland, an announcer for the air show. “We haven’t seen each other in two years. For me, personally, this is my favorite weekend of the year.”

Ron Fox, of Clark County, with his grandson Gavin, was the first in line at the airport gates Saturday morning.

“We’ve been first in line for like the last three years,” Fox said with a laugh.

He was simply glad the show was happening this weekend.

“I just feel great that it’s back,” he said. “To be out in the fresh air, just enjoying the air show.”

Jon Miguet, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said he has been attending the air show for almost 30 years. He said his favorite act is the Thunderbirds.

The show schedule is the same both days. After the flag drop and the National Anthem, spectators can look forward to: the Army Golden Knights parachute team, an Air Force C-17 demonstration, the AeroShell aerobatic team, a Navy F-18 Super Hornet demonstration, a Navy F-18 demonstration with a Corsair at times in tandem — and of course, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and more.

Day one of the show marked a return for Dayton’s classic summer event. Last year, show organizers reluctantly cancelled the two-day event as COVID took hold across the nation.

Initially, show organizers intended to have the 2021 show offered for the first time in a drive-in style tailgating event, with guests expected to stay in or close to parked automobiles.

Such an arrangement would have been limited to about 4,000 cars a day. With six passengers per car, that would have meant perhaps 24,000 guests a day — a far cry from the average 60,000 to 70,000 guests milling about on foot in previous years.

But with COVID numbers falling and public health orders ending in May and June, air show organizers decided May 17 to restore the traditional format.



The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the Sunday show. Oliver of Beavercreek will pilot one of the Thunderbird jets as opposing soloist. The Thunderbirds, known as America’s “ambassadors in blue,” will fly six General Dynamic F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Marshal Gorby contributed to this story.


General admission tickets are available online and at area Kroger stores for the Sunday show.

All ticket sales are final, no refunds, no rain checks. Click here to view the assortment of ticket options, call 800-514-3849 or email Tickets are also available at the gate.

Consider a family deal. The Synchrony Family 4-Pack is $99 plus a fee and includes, 4 general admission tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 Cokes, a general admission parking pass and an official souvenir program. The family value pack can be purchased here.


Parking is $15 for cars and $25 for bus or recreational vehicle at the gate.

There are two general admission lots located on North Dixie Drive. The Main Lot is within walking distance to the main gate and the South Lot has a shuttle to the gate.

The P-lot parking lot (for those with Pavilion, Blue Sky, or private chalet tickets) is also located on North Dixie Drive. A shuttle takes you from this lot to your seating area. This lot requires a pass printed at home or on a mobile device and held up for police to see.

Parking lots can be accessed from I-75 or I-70.

From I-75 take Exit 64 Northwoods Blvd. follow signs for ticket type.

From I-70 take Exit 32 Airport Access Road follow signs for ticket type.

More information about parking and a map can be found here.

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