THE U.S. NAVY’S BLUE ANGELS flight demonstration team was part of the air show at Brunswick Landing in 2017. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

THE U.S. NAVY’S BLUE ANGELS flight demonstration team was part of the air show at Brunswick Landing in 2017. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

BRUNSWICK

Will the Blue Angels will return to Brunswick in 2020? It’s up in the air.

The U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration team was part of the last air show at Brunswick Landing in 2017. Organizers have traditionally hosted the Great State of Maine Air Show every other year, but don’t expect to have one in 2019.

Steve Levesque, who directs development efforts at the Landing, said the Blue Angels likely wouldn’t be available in 2019.

“We have to request them two years in advance,” he said.

To get a fighter demonstration team for 2019, the authority could have requested the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force squadron.

While the Air Force typically has a couple of flight demonstrations at the air shows, the Brunswick area has close ties to the Navy. Brunswick Landing is the site of a former Naval air station, while Bath Iron Works, which builds destroyers for the Navy, is one of the area’s largest employers.

“I think we’ll hold off until 2020,” Levesque said.

 

 

Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the conversion of the former base to civilian use, has already made the Blue Angels request for 2020, but won’t know until December whether the team can make the trip. The authority likely will make the call on the air show next spring.

The Navy was able to host public air shows for free for 50 years at Brunswick Naval Air Station before the installation closed in 2011.

The redevelopment authority kept the tradition alive, but now the public has to pay to visit the airstrip to see aerobatic performers show off. As a result, the shows now draw fewer people.

“There’s a lot that goes into an air show,” Levesque said. “It costs been $650,000 and $750,000 to put on an air show.”

While the Blue Angels cover a significant portion of their own expenses, “you have to pay for all of the other acts and support all of them; you need sponsorship and you have to make sure you have enough ticket sales to pay for that,” Levesque said.

The redevelopment authority also needs to make sure it has a good jet team and plenty planes to display on the ground. If they bring in a big airplane for a few days, they need to provide the crew with hotel rooms, rental cars and other support.

One of the issues MRRA grapples with is how easy it is for people to see the air show without buying tickets. All they have to do is look up in Brunswick Landing or anywhere in the vicinity.

“If you can’t generate enough revenue to pay for the show, public safety costs — a ton of costs, then you have to look at: Do you really want to do it,” Levesque said. “So we have to rectify some of those things.”

For example, if a company is hosting a company picnic on campus where people are going to watch the show, maybe those entities could sponsor the air show, he said.

“All the money we make from our share goes to charities,” Levesque said.

As much as $10,000 to $20,000 has gone into the charitable foundation. Last year, however, only a couple thousand dollars was raised for the fund.

Levesque was optimistic that the redevelopment authority will get a good jet team to perform so it can work on solving some of these challenges.

“We’d love to have them; we love air shows,” he said. “They’re great, but they are an awful lot of work to put on, and money.”

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