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Airshow Bulletins

Airshow Bulletin (93-1)

Waivers for Aerobatic Practice Areas

The airshow industry uses practice areas to establish and maintain minimum proficiency and competence level for airshow performances. The additional training and testing that is required of airshow performers has been one of the factors requiring more practice areas. However, we want to emphasize our support of aerobatics for the purpose of recreation and sport competition which are also valid uses of our national airspace system. Inspectors should be receptive to the industry's needs, and work with the industry to establish practice areas consistent with safety and efficient use of airspace.

When a waiver is issued for a practice area, it is generally issued for aerobatics below 1500 feet AGL. Some FSDO's have made it a practice to request applicants for practice areas to obtain the permission of the landowner(s) over whose land the area is located. This is sometimes impossible, and is, practically speaking, unnecessary. It is important to point out that it is the Federal Aviation Administration's responsibility to decide whether a practice area and the activity is safe. In the case of an airport manager, that person should be cognizant of safety issues at that airport. For example the airport manager may decide that certain times of the day are better for aerobatic practice than others. However, in the case of a land owner, it is not his/her responsibility to decide whether an activity is safe or unsafe. Although not a safety requirement, it may be desirable to coordinate with the landowner when the aerobatic activity takes place below 500 feet AGL. Inspectors should review each site of a proposed practice area and determine whether the applicant should coordinate with the landowner in keeping with a "good neighbor" policy, particularly when the activity may take place near residences and other places that could generate complaints.

Aerobatic practice\evaluation within an aerobatic practice area is not considered an airshow. Under Section 91.119(c) of the Federal Aviation Regulations, practice within the area must be conducted no closer than 500 feet above any person or occupied structure. Distances greater than 500 feet may be placed in the special provisions for the practice area when the inspector believes that spectators may gather to watch unusually large aircraft, formation flight practice, lengthy practice sessions, or other such events. However, establishing separation requirements solely based upon established airshow showline criteria should not automatically be applied to aerobatic practice areas. For example 1,000 ft. separation for all aircraft with a cruise speed in excess of 156 knots should not arbitrarily be established, especially when a single landowner or infrequently used road is involved.

Airshow Bulletin (93-2)

Helicopter Rides Conducted During The Effective Time of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization

There have been varying interpretations regarding whether aircraft operations (other than scheduled air carrier) not listed on a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization or subsequently approved, may be conducted during the effective time listed on the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. The issue is whether helicopters should be allowed to conduct sight seeing rides during the effective time of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, including that time in which aerobatic demonstrations are conducted.

In evaluating the list of concerns for persons and property during helicopter sight seeing flights, there are some who find the list somewhat endless. Most would agree that helicopter sight seeing flights should not be conducted when aerobatic demonstrations encompass the entire airport area during their performance, such as military demonstration teams, etc. However, when airport management and the waiver holder can establish a flight area and procedures that will not interfere nor cause a safety problem, those helicopter operations should be allowed during the effective time of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. Airshow performers must be consulted to ensure helicopter operations do not pose a distraction during their performance.

We recommend that this issue be discussed with the waiver holder well in advance and clarified at the airshow briefing. A decision, by all parties involved, including the Federal Aviation Administration airshow monitor, should be made regarding when and where helicopter flights may be conducted. Thoughtful consideration of each case should help facilitate a safe and normal operation.

Airshow Bulletin (93-3)

Airshow Performers with FAA-Approved Maneuvers

At the last International Council of Air Shows Convention we were asked to research our files and provide an updated list of performers who hold FAA headquarters approval for any of their maneuvers sequences. Most approvals are either for positioning maneuvers that are oriented toward spectator areas, or for certain opening flights that enter the airshow site from behind and over spectators in non-aerobatic flight. Since future additions/deletions may revise this list, we recommend that inspectors and sponsors continue to make inquiries of performers as to whether they are using an approved maneuvers package. Performers should provide this information to the person developing the waiver request. All performers must be able to provide a copy of the approved maneuvers to the FAA inspector in charge of administering the certificate of waiver.


Cactus Squadron Flight Team
c/o Mr. Carl Schmieder
537 W. Kaler
Phoenix, AZ  85021

Eagles Aerobatic Team
c/o Mr. Gene Soucy
2203 Airline Drive
Friendswood, TX  77546

The Falcons Precision Flying Team
c/o Mr. Ed Messick
30560 Aurora Del Mar 
Carmel, CA  93923

Flight of the Grumman Tigers, Inc.
c/o Mr. John Ellis
15745 S. Airport Road
Battle Creek, MI  49015

French Connection Airshow
c/o Mr. Daniel Heligoin
Flagler County Airport
SR 1, Box 18 T, #7
Bunnell, FL  32110

Holiday Inn/Coca Cola Aerobatic Team
c/o Mr. Randall Brooks
225 Sea Brooks Drive
Fernandina Beach, FL  32034

Julie Clarks's American Aerobatics
c/o Ms. Julie Clark
3114 Boeing Road
Cameron Park, CA  95682

Kim Pearson Airshows. Inc.
c/o Mr. Kim Pearson
P.O. Box 1124
Sumter, SC  29151

North American Aerobatic Team
c/o Mr. Ben Cunningham
208 HWY, 49 North
Jackson, MS  39209

Redhawks Aerobatic Formation Team
c/o Mr. Harry Shepard
38 Jenkins Road
Franklin, NJ  07416

Rocky Mountain Air Shows, Inc.
c/o Mr. David Ebershoff
315 Cook Street
Denver, CO  80206

Sierra Aces 
c/o Mr. Steve Brower
P.O. Box 1211
Ramona, CA  92065

Six of Diamonds Flight Team
c/o Mr. Bill Dodd
6 Whitman Court
Freehold, NJ  07728

Swift Magic Aerobatic Team
c/o Mr. Michael Kennedy
308 Wentworth Court
Naples, FL  33942

Team America
c/o Mr. Chuck Lischer
3132 Boeing Road
Cameron Park, CA  95682


US Air Force Thunderbirds
(702) 652-4018

US Navy Blue Angles
(904) 452-2585

US Air Force Tactical Demonstration
(804) 764-7601
On a yearly basis a memo is sent out regarding the US Air Force Tactical Demonstration Team and their approved pilots.

In addition, all U.S. Air Force Reserve and Guard Units have Command approved maneuvers that do not require any special FAA acceptance.

The Canadian Snowbirds team is the only foreign military demonstration team that maintains an on-going FAA acceptance from year-to-year in the United States.

Airshow Bulletin (94-1)

Air Racing Pilot Competency

One fundamental principle regarding closed-course air race safety is that all of the participants need to be associated with one another in an organization that is dedicated to the sport of air racing. The structure and existence of a credible racing organization provides an internal level of safety that can not and will not otherwise exist regardless of the standards required of each and every individual.

FAA Order 8700.1, chapter 49 provides guidance for the issuance of a waiver for an event that includes closed-course air races, including determining whether an air race organization exists that is capable of evaluating the participating pilots and aircraft. Accordingly air race events have a built-in system of pilot evaluation that eliminates pilots who lack proficiency and those aircraft that can not pass in-depth scrutiny by the race organization. Page 49-8 of Order 8700.1 contains a list of well known race organizations which have credible programs for determining air racing pilot competence. However personnel changes in these racing organizations have caused the list to become out of date and created unnecessary confusion. Listed below are current racing groups and associated pilot evaluators who have developed credible programs for determining air race pilot competency:

Unlimited Division of the National Air Racing Group:


Jack Sweeney
PO Box 370
La Honda, CA  94020 
(415) 747-0592


Art Vance
1772 Sanders Road
Sebastopol, CA  95477
(707) 823-9503

Neil Anderson
6629 Meadow Haven Drive
Fort Worth, TX  76312
(817) 292-4051

T-6 Racing Association


Laird Doctor
41179 Estates Lane
Palmdale, CA  93551
(805) 943-4186


Laird Doctor
41179 Estates Lane
Palmdale, CA  93551
(805) 943-4186

International Formula One


Bruce Bohannon
2800 Red Bud
Alvin, TX  77511
(713) 331-8847


Dave Morss
1004 Springfield Drive
San Carlos, CA  94070
(415) 593-1448

Jim Harris 
754 Harris Ranch Road
Goldendale, WA  98620
(509) 773-4936

John Housley
1008 Providence Drive
Ballwin, MO  63011
(314) 256-8469

Professional Race Pilots Association (Biplane)


Mike Penkuth
233 Silver Eagle
Vacaville, CA  95688
(707) 451-9137


Stan Brown
147 East Liberty
Reno, NV  89501
(702) 333-6560

Mike Harris
19710 Old Winery Road
Sonoma, CA  95476
(707) 938-9012

Formula V Air Racing Association


Jim Vliet
12 Cooper Blvd.
Red Bank, NJ  07701
(908) 747-2581


Charles Terry
131 Boxwood Drive
Kings Park, NY  11754

Butch Mankovich
RD1 Box 82 Craigville Rd.
Chester, NY  10918
(914) 469-5094

Brian Dempsey
824 Cedarcroft
Millersville, MD  21108
(410) 987-1773
We remain confident in the air race industry's ability to conduct evaluations, particularly regarding pilot racing competency. Updates of air racing groups with credible programs for determining air race pilot competency will be made as necessary in the airshow bulletin format. FAA Order 8700.1, chapter 49 will be revised to reflect that credible programs for determining air race pilot competence will be listed in periodic airshow bulletins.

Airshow Bulletin (94-2)

Coordination with Air Traffic Control Facilities and the Issuance of Waivers for Aerobatic Practice Areas

The aviation community uses aerobatic practice areas to establish and maintain minimum proficiency and competence levels for airshow performance and sport competition. Aerobatics for the purpose of training and recreation are also valid uses of our national airspace system. Inspectors should be receptive to the industry's needs, and work with the industry to establish practice areas consistent with safety and efficient use of airspace.

FAA Order 8700.1, "General Aviation Operations Inspector's Handbook," Chapter 49, Paragraph 5, addresses air traffic coordination prior to the issuance of a certificate of waiver or authorization for operations in controlled airspace. If there is any doubt as to which ATC facility has jurisdiction for the requested airspace, the regional air traffic division should be contacted.

For ATC facilities familiar with aerobatic practice areas, coordination may be limited to providing a copy of the Application for Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for review. Upon ATC concurrence, the waiver is issued incorporating any ATC limitations or special considerations.

However for facilities not familiar with aerobatic activity, such as contract air traffic control towers and especially for proposed aerobatic practice areas located at airports with operating control towers, additional information may be necessary. It may be advantageous to brief the manager of the ATC facility in person and review the application and special provisions designed to protect persons and property on the surface and other users of the national airspace system. Often times ATC personnel are not privy to notification and communication requirements contained in special provisions nor do they realize aerobatic activity may only occur infrequently. This type of meeting is also an excellent opportunity to resolve any ATC safety-related airspace concerns.

When an air traffic facility has identifiable airspace safety concerns, it may non-concur with the proposed aerobatic practice area. Non-concurrence without reasonable supporting justification is not acceptable. If unable to resolve non safety-related ATC objections, inspectors should contact the supervising ATC facility for resolution.

Airshow Bulletin (94-3)

Airshow Briefings

Airshow waiver special provisions require the waiver holder to ensure that participants are thoroughly briefed on special field rules, manner and order of events, and are available for briefing on the provisions of the waiver or authorization before beginning activities. The FAA inspector-in-charge (IIC) is not responsible for conducting the briefing, but must be available at the briefing for any questions concerning the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization and its provisions. No person may participate in any event unless that person has received a briefing on the provisions of the waiver(s) or authorization(s).

The pre-airshow briefing sets the standard for a safe, well organized, professional airshow. The briefing must cover every aspect of the event. FAA Order 8700.1, "General Aviation Operations Inspector's Handbook," Chapter 50, Paragraph 9 references some typical briefing items that are relevant to most aviation events such as ground-to-air signals, operations areas, and recall procedures. Depending upon the scope and complexity of the event, other briefing items may be necessary to facilitate a safe operation.

The airshow industry has developed concise and detailed airshow briefing guides. The following minimum items should be covered in sufficient detail during the pre-airshow briefing:

1. Introduction of officials, including the FAA IIC, fire rescue chief, airshow director/safety coordinator, ATC personnel (if applicable).

2. Weather briefing and outlook.

3. Review of airshow waiver/authorization and special provisions.

4. Emergency procedures:

     a.   communication failure
     b.   inflight emergencies
     c.   emergencies on ground
     d.   crash/fire contingency planning  
     e.   alternate field, heading, distance, frequencies and runways.
5. Airshow, ATC, and emergency frequencies.

6. Field elevation and density altitude.

7. Showlines, taxi procedures and runway use (diagram or map of field must be used).

8. Special concerns, obstacles, and areas of flight restriction.

9. Schedule of events and how changes will be communicated.

10. Parking/starting areas and location of fire bottles.

11. Procedures for fuel, oil and aircraft servicing.

12. Post event departure procedures.

13. Time and place of additional briefings that may be necessary for coordinating specific activities involving warbirds, pyrotechnics, opening flag jump, etc.

14. All performers sign the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, attesting that they will comply with all provisions. A team leader or representative may sign for the entire team.

If briefing items are omitted or unclear, the FAA IIC should bring this matter to the attention of the waiver holder for appropriate resolution.

Airshow Bulletin (94-4)

Aerobatic Demonstration Areas at Airshows

Many terms have been used to describe the area where aerobatics are performed during an airshow. Aerobatic demonstration areas, flight maneuvering areas, aerobatic boxes, and aerobatic/fly-by areas all convey approximately the same meaning.

A Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (FAA form 7711-1), issued to a show sponsor by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) specifies a geographic area, both lateral and vertical, where demonstrations are authorized. This area could be quite large (e.g. 10 NM radius of an airport, from the surface up to 15,000 feet MSL) or rather small (e.g. 2 NM radius, up to 3,000 feet MSL) depending on the type of aerial demonstration planned. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) are listed on FAA form 7711-1 which have been waived. Also contained with FAA form 7711-1 are standard and special provisions designed to protect persons and property on the surface and other users of the National Airspace System.

In determining where aerobatics will be performed within the geographic area specified on FAA form 7711-1, the sponsor selects a site which will accommodate all the specific types of aerial demonstrations, without derogating safety or creating a hazard to any nonparticipant or spectator. It is imperative that all areas adjacent to the show site containing homes, factories, major highways, well-traveled thoroughfares, or any occupied vessel, vehicle, or structure, be carefully evaluated before making a final decision for site selection. This area may be specified on maps, charts, diagrams, or other data submitted by the airshow sponsor with the application for the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for an aerobatic demonstration. Considerable planning by the FAA and show sponsor go into developing appropriate showlines and primary/secondary spectator viewing areas to ensure compliance by the participants and adherence to the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization and standard and special provisions by the show sponsor.

However, there may be instances when a modification to the aerobatic demonstration area may be necessary for a particular performance, unexpected site problems, weather conditions, geographic conditions, environmental conditions, or any other situation where the modification of the site could enhance safety or event operations. Demonstrations may be authorized outside a previously mutually agreed aerobatic demonstration area when the following conditions are met:

1. The performer is able to comply with all FAR, all special provisions of the waiver and any and all pilot and aircraft limitations;


2. The airshow sponsor complies with all general and special provisions, such as halting the demonstration when unauthorized persons, vehicles, or aircraft enter the demonstration area; and

3. The airshow sponsor has received the concurrence of the FAA investigator-in-charge for the site modification, which shall not be unreasonably withheld if conditions 1 and 2 are met.

Airshow Bulletin (94-5)

Night Aerobatics and Aircraft Pyrotechnic Demonstrations at Airshows

In order to further enhance safety to the public at airshows we intend to institute the following policy at all airshows in the United States for all civilian operators:

a. After November 1, 1994, night aerobatics or aerial demonstrations utilizing pyrotechnic devices may be performed by those persons meeting the following conditions:

Those performers who can show evidence and document their performance at an airshow authorized by a Federal Aviation Administration Certificate of Waiver and/or Authorization prior to September 1, 1994, where they have performed aerobatics at night or utilized pyrotechnic devices, as appropriate.

b. After January 31, 1996, all persons:

1. conducting aerobatics at night must have demonstrated or substantiated their skills in flying aerobatics at night and have their aerobatic competency cards annotated, "Night Aerobatics."

© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Email Guenther Eichhorn