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Huntington Beach air show in financial turmoil

The future of the year-old Breitling Huntington Beach Airshow is in jeopardy.

This year’s show featuring the Blue Angels, slated for Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, has an estimated funding gap of about $350,000, according to a presentation given Monday at the City Council meeting. Last year’s inaugural show lost about $400,000 — despite having more than 560,000 attendees.

The event is expected to cost $975,000.

The council voted 5-0 at the meeting to direct City Manager Fred Wilson to analyze ways the city can provide financial support to the air show’s operator, AirSupport LLC. Councilman Billy O’Connell was recused for nearby business interests and Councilman Patrick Brenden was absent.

Kevin Elliott, representing the air show at the meeting, said the event cannot sustain the projected losses.

He said although the show is expected to host more than 1 million people this year, events of this kind don’t see profit for three to five years so the city should see any investment as a long-term venture.

Elliott pointed out that the event hasn’t adequately attracted sponsors because national brands generally wait until an event is proven and the air show is still in its infancy.

Blue Angels pilots Brandon Hempler and David Steppe with Mayor Barbara Delgleize in front of their jet. The Blue Angels will be performing at the Breitling Huntington Beach Airshow from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. (Photo by Barbara Caruso)

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey, who proposed the item along with Brenden, said the motion isn’t meant to have taxpayers foot the bill but rather to have staff see how the airshow can be financially aided.

Wilson said the city can look into increasing parking rates during the event, similar to what it does during the busy Fourth of July festivities.

Councilman Erik Peterson said he would be in favor of raising parking rates for the event but that the city “can’t be going to the taxpayer” for the funds.

Some members of the public and local officials showed up to the meeting to voice their opinions.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel showed up to support the item, citing the air show’s successes, while resident Bobbi Ashurst said she opposed the city spending money on the show because there are other city issues to contend with, including infrastructure improvements.

This year’s air show will feature the Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds, a popular military jet demonstration team.

Last year’s event featured the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team.

Admission to the show is free. A portion of vendors’ proceeds will go toward the Aerospace Educational Foundation of Huntington Beach, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering education in the aerospace industry.

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