Two of the Blue Angels pilots, Lt. Andy Talbott and Lt. Lance Benson, leave the Smyrna Airport on Friday, June 3, 2016, to head back to Pensacola, Fla.
The show must go on, said Kedric Rutz, who has been involved with the Great Tennessee Air Show for 10 years. The Navy's Blue Angels pilots have pulled out of the two-day event after the death of one of the pilots during a practice run Thursday afternoon at Smyrna Airport, but more than a dozen other high-flying acts are scheduled to perform Saturday and Sunday.
To honor the pilot who lost his life Thursday, Great Tennessee Air Show co-producers, the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority and The Air Show Network, will jointly donate a portion of proceeds of all ticket sales for this weekend's air show to the Captain Jeff Kuss Family Fund, according to an announcement from the organizers posted on the event Facebook page.
“The weekend’s air show is dedicated to honoring Capt. Kuss for his service to our country and for making the ultimate sacrifice,” said John Black, executive director of Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport. “We hope to help ease some of the family’s financial hardships after this tragedy and let them know we hold them dear to our hearts.”
“The outpouring of support from the community and aviation fans converging on Smyrna for this weekend’s air show has been amazing,” added Jim Breen, president of The Air Show Network. “Every one of this weekend’s air show spectators, including those who have already purchased tickets, can know that they’re directly contributing to help the family.”
“It’s a tragic thing that happened,” said Rutz, who met with fellow Smyrna Rotary Club members Friday morning to discuss the tragedy. “Conventional wisdom is if you have an accident and have time to recover from it, you go on with the show.”
Rutz has been involved with air shows since 1988 in operations and management and he’s seen tragedies happen before. What he’s seen is the shows continue, even in light of difficult circumstances.
“People have paid for tickets. They are expecting to come to the air show. Just like car racing or some other spectator sport, the show goes on,” Rutz said.
Rutz also said he sees it as a tragedy, but it’s important to remember Kuss was “doing what he loved.”
“He died doing that and he wouldn’t have done it any different,” Rutz said.
Gates open at 8 a.m. both days for exploring exhibits, Kids Zone and ground displays. The shows are scheduled to begin at noon.
The ICAS Foundation has established a fund to provide support to the family of Capt. Jeff Kuss and donations can be made directly at www.icasfoundation.org.
A limited number of tickets remain for both Saturday and Sunday shows and can be purchased at www.GreatTennesseeAirShow.com or at the gate while supplies last.
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