EAA is assembling a "dream team" of top air show performers and military and air show industry experts to assist EAA Vice President of AirVenture Features and Attractions Jim DiMatteo in directing the air show at AirVenture.
Joe Schumacher, who has directed the air show for the past 16 years, is retiring after this year's AirVenture. EAA will honor Joe's service with a ceremony just before the Rockwell Collins Night Air Show on Saturday evening.
"Joe's departure has presented EAA with an opportunity that we didn't expect to have," said EAA President/CEO Rod Hightower. "And that's why I have directed Jim to form a team of experts who can take the show to the next level."
DiMatteo is a retired naval aviator who flew more than 5,000 hours in a variety of fighter jets during his service. Capt. DiMatteo's experience is unique because he commanded the "aggressor" component of the Navy's TOPGUN operation for many years. The aggressors-enemy aircraft in the TOPGUN school-flew various jets so Navy and Marine Corps pilots could gain the real-world experience of dogfighting against dissimilar aircraft.
Before joining EAA early this year DiMatteo was also the international race director for the Red Bull Air Races over the past six years. The Red Bull Air Racers performed at major urban areas around the world including around the Statue of Liberty in New York; over the beaches of Barcelona, Spain; and along the Danube River in Budapest.
The Red Bull Air Races featured high-performance aerobatic airplanes flying through a low-level course marked by temporary inflated pylons. Red Bull Air Races pioneered dramatic video from cameras mounted on the airplanes that was then shown to the crowd in real time on enormous video screens as well as streamed live to its website. Additionally, the Air Races were broadcast on television to huge audiences in more than 180 countries around the world.
"AirVenture is a unique and wonderful event, unlike any air show in the world," DiMatteo said. "Our new team of experts will come from all parts of aviation and the air show entertainment industry to identify and present the most exciting performances and attractions at Oshkosh every year. The EAA team will select only the most qualified, safest, and most entertaining performers for every show."
"Jim, whose Navy fighter pilot call sign is Guido, has my full confidence," Hightower said. "He has the national and international experience with absolutely first-rate air show performers, and many high-level contacts in military aviation, to put together a true dream team of air show experts."
The highlight of Schumacher's years of directing the AirVenture daily air show has been the creation of the Saturday Night Air Show with lights and pyrotechnics on the performing airplanes, and on the ground. The dazzling light show in the air is capped by one of the largest fireworks displays that you will see anywhere in the country.
"The Saturday Night Air Show is a prime example of how the air show at AirVenture can grow and improve every year," DiMatteo said. "My dream team of experts perform at and direct hundreds of air shows around the world every year. They know how to put safety first while presenting the most entertaining show.
"Our current aerobatic box does not allow the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds to perform at AirVenture, which we'll address in the future, but there are ways we can present exciting flying by current military airplanes at the show, and we will," DiMatteo continued. "The warbird performances are consistently among the most popular flying displays anywhere and we will continue to offer the best warbird show in the country. But people also want to see current generation fighters and other military aircraft fly, and we will do that."
Members of the new AirVenture features and attractions committee will be named shortly after the end of this year's show. But already air show organizers and FAA regulators are enthused to learn of the new concept in air show management and many say this new approach will keep EAA and AirVenture at the top and setting the standards for aviation displays for many years to come.