Commercial airshow in Homestead viewed as global draw
By Zachary S. Fagenson
By 2012, South Florida might have its own commercial air show at Homestead Air Force Base similar to those held outside of Paris at Le Bourget and near London at Farnborough Airfield.
The Beacon Council is spearheading the effort. In mid-July, it pitched to the county commission plans for a show, which it says could generate up to $100 million in economic impact, draw as many as 150,000 visitors a day for a week and attract about 2,000 exhibits.
"This is a commercial air show… that is literally a trade show" but would have a public component, said Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero. Such a show "would clearly cement Miami-Dade County and all of South Florida as an aviation center."
While the council's presentation clearly outlined benefits, the cost isn't defined.
"I think the next step is to have the county commission issue a formal resolution of support" for the show, Mr. Nero said, "asking in that resolution for an interagency taskforce to be formed in order to evaluate and move this ball forward."
Among those who would be tapped to assess feasibility are the county, its aviation department, the Department of Defense and professional event planners specialized in air shows and worldwide marketing.
The taskforce would examine available resources and possible cost of improving such infrastructure, plus event access, safety and security management, aircraft support and service, and marketing.
If the report and its suggested improvements couldn't be finished by 2012, the show could be pushed to 2014, the council says.
But once the possibility and cost of a show are defined, the Beacon Council would have to approach "the international community to see if [companies] like Airbus and Embry-Riddle would also have an interest in exhibiting and participating," Mr. Nero pointed out.
Bringing in big name exhibitors and sponsors, however, may not be so easy.
"The airlines in today's conditions are sponsoring less and spending less, and I'm not sure it would have any effect at all on them," said John Jackson, a senior marketing officer for AvGroup Inc., a Miami-based airline consultancy.
With good marketing and proper lead time, he said, such a show could succeed, but due to the number of already-established commercial air shows, potential exhibitors might not see the value of attending a start-up when they could go to the established show at Le Bourget.
There are a lot of "these things out there in the market these days and I think companies are getting more and more reluctant to participant," Mr. Jackson added.
Four of the top five commercial air shows, according to the Beacon Council, are held every second year.
If the Miami show were to be held on Le Bourget's off year as planned, it would compete with the Farnborough International Airshow, held outside of London on even years, and EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, held annually in Minnesota.
Yet Dan Sullivan, president of the Greater Miami Aviation Association, said the absence of large-scale commercial air show in the US is a driving cause for Miami to host one.
"I don't think it's anything but a win-win," he said. "There's many important needs and factors that we would need to put together. We could start off small and grow into" a larger show.
Le Bourget, established in 1909, took time to grow into the event it is today, he said.
"If we could do something one quarter the size of the Paris air show," Mr. Sullivan argued, "it would be tremendous."