The host of the Great State of Maine Air Show and Business Aviation Expo in Brunswick this weekend says the agency is on pace to cover the cost of putting on the three-day show, estimated to be about $800,000.

An admission fee will be charged. That’s a change from previous shows at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station because the Navy is no longer involved in planning and hosting the event.

Organizers have said they will need to sell about 32,000 tickets to cover their costs.

“It’s a civilian show now, and we’ve got to pay for it,” said Steven Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the agency established to market the former airbase and attract new businesses to it.

“People will come up to me and ask, ‘Why do we have to pay now?’ but I tell them they had to pay before,” Levesque said. “It was supported by their tax dollars (for military spending).”

Levesque is encouraging the public to purchase tickets online in advance of the show. By doing so, they can save $5 per ticket and a lot of time. Admission at the gate will be $20.

“If people want to avoid long lines, come early and pay in advance. It will save them money and make things a lot easier,” Levesque said.

The show had sold more than 5,000 tickets as of Monday, a pace that by national air show standards would suggest that the authority will be able to cover its expenses, Levesque said.

In 2008, when admission was free, the air show attracted 150,000 visitors.

Levesque said organizers have taken a number of safety measures in the event tragedy should strike, as happened this past weekend when several fatal crashes occurred at air shows around the globe.

“It’s a lot like car racing. There are a lot of precautions that need to be taken,” he said.

A crash and rescue team, consisting of members of Portland’s Fire Department, will be standing by. A Medevac helicopter, on loan from the Maine National Guard, will be in Brunswick along with a LifeFlight helicopter.

A stunt pilot died at a Kansas City air show over the weekend after his plane spiraled and plummeted nose-first into the ground. The plane burst into flames.

In England on Saturday, a British Air Force jet crashed during an air show, killing its pilot. And in Michigan, a wing walker was killed during an air show when he fell 200 feet from a moving plane. He was trying to climb onto a passing helicopter.

Gates will open 4 p.m. Friday with a fireworks display set for Friday night. The Army Golden Knights parachute team will skydive against a backdrop of fireworks.

The gates will reopen at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the show scheduled to end at 4 p.m. on each of those days.

The stars of this year’s air show, the Navy Blue Angels, are expected to perform on both days.

Levesque said the weather is looking very good for Friday and Saturday. The National Weather Service’s forecast for Sunday is calling for a chance of rain.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram is a co-sponsor of the air show.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]