The Smoky Mountain Air Show

Special Events

The Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, in conjunction with the Tennessee Air National Guard, hosted the Smoky Mountain Air Show at McGhee Tyson Airport on April 15-17, 2016. It had been over 16 years since the facility had hosted an air show, making the special event extremely popular within the region. The airport staff was tasked with promoting the special event and developing an agenda that had something for each of the event’s target audience groups: families, educators, dignitaries and aviation enthusiasts. Such a diverse target audience required that planning and implementation of the air show be unique and dynamic. To meet those needs, we scheduled performers who were both energetic and educational; we developed advertisements with a kid-focus (either to a child or to the “inner child” of the adults listening); we partnered with 5 surrounding city and county municipalities; we successfully recruited over a mile of diverse and unique static aircraft; and we hosted private, invitation-only receptions for sponsors and dignitaries. In the end, three –day event attracted over 230,000 people. Proceeds of the air show benefitted Honor Air Knoxville, and through the community's support, we were able to donate $350,000 to the organization.

Entry Statement

1. Project Goals: 

The goal of the Smoky Mountain Air Show was to allow the community to have a personal interaction with aviation in a time where aviation security restricts aircraft access. We often find that there is a loss of connection between the community and the airport, and the air show is an opportunity to create a passion for aviation. The Airport Authority planned to attract people from around the region and host approximately 3,000 children for a Friday practice show and 75,000 people per day during Saturday and Sunday’s performances. We expected to meet the attendance goal through promotions beginning six months prior to the event, including civic club speeches, visits to local schools, social media ads, and monthly media opportunities.

2. Production

The air show was coordinated in-house and sub-contracted to graphic designers, caterers, and rental companies.

3. Evaluation: 

Over the course of three days, 230,000 people attended the air show. Throughout the 12 months leading up to the event and during the air show weekend, a news circulation audience of 192.4 million was reached, an ad value of $683,692.14 was earned, and social media impressions totaled 1.72 million.

4. Budget: 

The budget set for the Smoky Mountain Air Show was $100,000. The public relations department spent a total of $52,000 on advertising, private event receptions, and additional communications efforts. During the week of the air show, the public relations department worked 266 hours on the event, totaling $10,418.