Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Plane Truth

The Jersey International Air Display must find new ways of generating income to reduce the burden on the taxpayer, according to the Ports of Jersey. This year's event on 10 September is being supported by a government grant of £189,000. Robert Gaines-Cooper had sponsored the air display for 18 years but he withdrew his financial support in 2014.
(BBC News)

At least the air display gets something for its £189,000, which is more than can be said for the £200,000 non-existent movie grant signed off by Alan Maclean!

The need for the States to cough up for the air display comes after the withdrawal of a main sponsor, but more could be done by those businesses which use the event to host corporate events because they just happen to have a good view of the flying arena.

That those businesses choose to just take this for free when building up their own profits says a lot for corporate greed and the lack of corporoate responsibility to give back something to the community.

Mike Higgins is I suspect too much of a gentleman to “name and shame”, but it should not be past the wit of an investigative reporter from the JEP to enquire of those business staging corporate events how much they are donating to the air display.

Like the Battle of Flowers, the air display also brings in revenue from the tourist, but unlike the Battle, there are no tickets sold; apart from programmes for sale, and voluntary donations, it is all free for the general public to view. Would they come if there was a modest charge to be made? 

That, of course, is the conundrum, as the skies can be viewed from many vantage points, unlike the Battle for which viewing is restricted to the arena. I think the only way to find out is to try – and a “toll” could also be set up on a few other roads, such as that leading to Noirmont. In fact, a bucket or two held by volunteers at Noirmont on the approach road would not go amiss this year.

Funding models at other UK air displays should also be considered, although it is clear that Jersey is not alone with finding funding problematic.

Cleethorpes Air Show – a free two-day airshow, has been cancelled for 2015 because of a funding shortfall, but the local authority hopes to be able to put on an airshow or air display of some kind and a report in December 2014 suggests it may move to Hull.

And the Folkestone Air Show has been cancelled. The official line was that "without considerable public support and business funding the show is unlikely to return". The 2014 show organisers, Open Air Productions, called in the liquidators leaving local businesses unpaid.

The Southend Airshow and Military Festival in Essex has been cancelled. The organisers blame high local authority costs. After cancellation of the airshow in 2013 the Southend Air Festival was to have become the Southend Airshow and Military Festival in 2014, but because of a funding shortfall the relaunch was postponed.

A number of other shows occur once every two years, no doubt to better aid fundraising and budgets. This is also something which could be considered. They are not just small ones – the Farnborough International air Show - the biggest aircraft trade show in the UK is held once every two years.

The Dawlish Air show has a funding website where some funding (which can be by Paypal) is directly linked to aircraft appearing, such as the last appearance of the Avro Vulcan XH558 supported by a “crowd-funding bid” raised the £8,000 needed.


The website also notes:

“Your huge generosity means we have raised enough money to confirm the booking – but we are still f fundraising, both online and of course in Dawlish this week. Friday sees our Family Fun Day and Pilots’ Party, while the airshow and live music is on Saturday, starting from around 11.30am.”

There is also a The Friends of Dawlish Air Show scheme which was launched in November 2009 as a way to raise additional funds to pay for the town's annual 'free' air show.

And Dawlish has also moved online

“Air Show Cam will be watchable for all paid subscribers and all we ask is that you make a donation to the Air Show fund. We will be broadcasting at the same FULL HD experience you are used to with Dawlish Beach along with great sound. The camera we are using is the same the BBC use on location for their news clips.”

Whether Dawlish has as many aircraft, or the cost of landing fees is as great, I don’t know, but it is interesting to note that it costs about £60,000 to produce and is like Jersey a largely “free” show.

And the Herne Bay Air show has a digital souvenir guide, ideal for the world of smart phones and apps:

“Download our digital souvenir guide, it costs £5, which helps us put the event on. Enjoy the digital version with the full event guide, all-important aircraft timings, plus much more.”

Their website has a rotating link of sponsors.


Clearly more could be done, and while Herne Bay, for example, still has sponsorship from Kent County Council, it has widened its sponsorship base.

Possibly because we have had the luxury of a large sponsor in Robert Gaines-Cooper, it has perhaps not been so necessary in Jersey.

And of course, now Ports of Jersey is incorporated, they appear to want less involvement in raising funding for subsidising events like the Air Display.

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