Imagine conducting a world class orchestra for an audience of 10,000 people. Does the notion make your palms sweat, just a little? Now imagine the cellos, flutes, tubas, etc. flying around the auditorium at upwards of 300 miles per hour. Do you think you could handle that? Shea Carr Jewell’s own Jim Gibson, project manager and professional engineer, can. Jim Gibson is an Airboss.
There over 300 air shows a year in the US, each with a unique set of demonstrations and performances, and each one requires an Airboss to coordinate all of the aerial activities. Beyond just being an air traffic controller, the pacing and presentation are also in the hands of the Airboss. Safety, of course, is the primary concern but the Airboss controls not just the air but the entire show.
Jim’s lifetime interest in flying and career as a Professional Engineer make him well-suited for the job. Jim has spent time in the air as long as he can remember. His first trips up were in a Cessna 172 flown by his father, also a Professional Engineer (the apple didn’t fall too far from the hangar.) As a teenager Jim got some time behind the yoke under the guidance of his dad, and in 2001 he received his private pilot’s license.
Nine years ago Jim volunteered at the local Olympic Air Show held annually at the Olympia Regional Airport in Tumwater, Washington. That first year Jim manned the souvenir shop (an important, if slightly less glamorous role). The next year he got involved in the production side, assisting and learning from the more experienced staff, eventually landing the Airboss spot in 2005.
In addition to the Olympic Air Show Jim has been increasingly busy hiring out to other events across the country. Jim says he has choreographed a total five events this summer, noting “Being the Airboss means all flying responsibilities are yours during the show, but seeing the audience’s interaction and enjoyment makes it all worthwhile.” At recent shows Jim has found himself directing such diverse acts as the Blue Angels, the Air Force Thunderbirds, Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Geico Skytypers, military jet demonstrations and scores of aerobatic performances.
We at SCJ wish Jim continued success with his expanding Airboss gig – but he’d better not decide to do it full time!