Sometime in the late 1920s, a kid named Bill Sweet became the manager at Linden Airport in Ohio, and got into air shows selling airplane rides. Not long after, he realized there was money to be made in the entertainment industry, and that air shows were entertainment. Bill Sweet had begun his four decade love affair with the air show business. And never were a man and his mistress better suited to one another.
Excitement, pizzazz and star quality were the benchmarks on which he built his business. And many believe that our entire industry — everything we saw here this week has been established largely on the foundation that he built during his air show career.
In the 40’s, Bill Sweet helped to define the emerging air show business by bringing World War II heroes to the masses pilots like Joe Mackey and Mike Murphy, and formation teams like the Linco Flying Aces.
In the early 1950’s, when the FAA cancelled all waivers following an air show accident in Colorado that killed 23 spectators, Bill Sweet went to Washington and spent the entire winter and his own money knocking on doors and lobbying for reinstatement of air shows. Had he not been successful, it’s very possible that none of us would have jobs today.
During the 60’s and 70’s, Bill Sweet carried on the tradition of the traveling aerial circus by taking National Air Shows on the road. Some may remember him for his carnival barker-style at the microphone. Others may remember him for giving a start to air show greats Harold Krier, Rod Jocelyn, Charlie Hillard, Eddie Green and others.
The ICAS Foundation is pleased to honor Bill Sweet as a man who connected the air show industry’s barnstorming past with today’s multi-million dollar entertainment industry.