By Henry M. Holden
Veteran air show journalist Timothy R. Gaffney and photographer Ty Greenlees have been covering the Dayton Air Show for the Dayton Daily News since 1985. “The Dayton Air Show: A Photographic Celebration” is a collaboration between Greenlees and Gaffney, who have been air show fans since childhood.
“The Dayton Air Show has been the highlight of my summers since 1980, and I’ve been lucky enough to photograph every show since,” said Greenlees. “This book showcases the wide array of people and flying machines that have thrilled air show fans over the past 20-plus years.”
Organized by category, Greenlees’ stunning photos capture the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, rare warbirds, military jets, civilian performers, air racers, rotary-wing craft, parachutists and more.
“After many years of covering the show, we started talking about all the incredible pictures Ty was accumulating,” said Gaffney. “If Ty took a hundred pictures, maybe one or two made it into the newspaper. And back in the ’80s and ’90s, many of them were published in black and white.”
Gaffney emphasized that the book isn’t a history of the air show, but does cover a large span of years and promotes the air show.
“The book showcases what Dayton is all about,” Gaffney said. “We chose to do a wide-format coffee table book with more that 200 photos to bring the reader closer to the action.”
Gaffney wrote for the Dayton Daily News for almost 30 years and is the author of a dozen children’s and adult books about aviation and space exploration.
“This was a new experience for me,” he said. “Ty would select the pictures he wanted to use, and then the graphic designer would place them and send the PDF files to me to fill in the caption spaces. In my experience, the text always came first, even in picture books, and then the captions would support the text.”
How the show evolved
In the introduction, Gaffney describes the tradition of air shows in Dayton, going back to 1910, which was the year of the first big air meets in the United States, and when the Wright brothers and Curtiss took their exhibition teams to these meets. Most of the Wright brothers’ team trained on Huffman’s Prairie in Dayton. Today, that show has grown to about 80,000 visitors for the two-day event.
Gaffney’s text traces Dayton’s air show heritage from modern times back through the all-but-forgotten national aircraft shows of the 1950s, and the military festivals predating World War II. Included in the book is a picture of a B-52 bomber at the show. Gaffney relates how the B-52 was actually designed over a long weekend in a hotel room in downtown Dayton.
“What’s important to me about this book is that I try to make the connection between the air show and Dayton’s aviation heritage,” said Gaffney. “I volunteer at the air show and at some of the aviation heritage groups in the area. One of the groups took a survey a few years ago that acknowledged that most people know the Wright brothers invented the airplane, but few knew they did it here in Dayton. Many also didn’t know that after Kitty Hawk, the brothers came back here to finish their airplane development. That development continues today here at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.”
Gaffney and Greenlees have hundreds of photos that remain unpublished.
“We’re supplementing the book with a website,” said Gaffney. “Ty is going through his photos to create photo galleries of pictures that didn’t make it into the book. We also want to use the blog to tell some behind the scene stories about some of the pictures and the things that went into the book. For instance, I have pictures of Ty doing his work, and we’ll put them on the site and talk about what he was doing.”
Gaffney said that one of the fun things about taking the pictures was being able to get in an airplane and take some up-close, air-to-air shots.
“I have pictures of Ty wearing a helicopter gunner’s belt and hanging out of the airplane,” he said. “None of those are in the book, but we’ll put some of them up on the website.”
Gaffney said the Dayton Air Show isn’t simply entertainment.
“It’s a celebration of the region’s aviation heritage and the aerospace work that goes on here today,” he said. “By making those connections, we think this book will help promote both the region’s aviation heritage and its aerospace industry.”
The book is mainly about airplanes, but not exclusively; it also includes many photos of people, including performers like Sean Tucker, Patty Wagstaff and historical re-enactors.
“Ty had planned to use an air-to-air photo of Sean D. Tucker at the 2003 air show as his cover photo,” said Gaffney. “We didn’t know until December that Sean is to be inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame this year on the same weekend as the air show. So the book will be coming out this summer with Sean on the cover, while Sean is flying at the air show and being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
For more information, visit [http://www.daytonairshowbook.com].