JoCo on the Go Podcast: Garmin KC Airshow returns to Johnson County

On JoCo on the Go, episode #142, lots to see and do at the annual Garmin KC Airshow. The major event returns to Johnson County’s New Century AirCenter Sept. 3-4. The 2022 event is extra special as the U.S. Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary. The Thunderbirds will take to the sky and impress the crowd down below with their precision and patriotism. Also on the episode, hear from Patty Wagstaff, a female performer, offering a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put a performance together.

JoCo on the Go Webcast: Garmin KC Airshow returns to Johnson County

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Time Subject
00:28 Introduction
01:53 What to expect at the air show
03:25 The airport's involvement
03:25 Acts in the air show
09:46 Hear from one of the acts
13:53 Safety measures for the event
18:41 How to get your tickets


Theresa Freed 0:00 

Amazing performances will fill the skies in Johnson County soon for the annual Garmin KC Air Show. On this episode hear about the highlights and find out what it takes to pull an event like this together.

Announcer 0:12 

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed 0:25 

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County Government. This year's air show is once again expected to draw a huge crowd. It's something people look forward to every year. And this year is especially worth celebrating since it's the 75th anniversary for the US Air Force, and the Thunderbirds will be taking part. Here to talk more about that and all the great attractions we have with us, Cory and Aaron. And in just a bit, you're also going to hear from one of our performers. So Cory, we're gonna go ahead and start with you, if you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your role at the air show.

Cory Mullins 1:00 

Yep, my name is Cory Mullins, and I'm with the Garmin KC Air Show group, also the director for the air show. So I help assist with the team that puts all this together, logistics and planning and all the bussing, basically everything behind what you guys see, trying to give attendees the best experience that we can possible.

Theresa Freed 1:19 

Alright, and Aaron, if you wanna introduce yourself and your role.

Aaron Otto 1:22 

Sure, my name is Aaron Otto. I serve as executive director of the Johnson County Airport Commission. And in this instance, we play host to the Kansas City Air Show down at New Century AirCenter. And so I don't think people fully appreciate the complexity, the amount of planning, the size of the budget, just all that goes into planning on an air show. And that really is where that group of incredible community involved citizens and folks like Cory come into play to make this possible. So we try to be as supportive as we can as the host organization. But the real magic, it's made by the air show charity.

Theresa Freed 1:54 

Alright, and Cory, if you want to tell us a little bit about what people can expect this year.

Cory Mullins 1:57 

So this year, we have some, in addition to returning acts from last year, we've added some awesome acts. Patty, you'll hear with in a little bit. She's one of those, as well as the Red Bull Air Force, they're here as well. I'm really looking forward to that. And then other performers in their first time here in Kansas City, as well as we have some cool things also for the family and kids. Also, we have a monster truck experience. So that's been really cool. Another thing that we've been trying to get the air show for the past about four years, we're gonna have an Osprey. So definitely glad to see that. And it'll be really cool to check that out. And other kids really like that as well.

Theresa Freed 2:32 

Alright, and I mentioned that 75th anniversary, can you tell me how that's going to be highlighted this year?

Cory Mullins 2:37 

So definitely, with being the 75th anniversary of the US Air Force, we're gonna really celebrate that. Go off a big bang and good celebration there with the Thunderbirds for the show.

Theresa Freed 2:47 

I know it's always really impressive to be out there and see the excitement, you know, be part of it. But can you talk about the planning and the preparation that goes into this? I mean, you probably start as soon as one year is finished, you're starting on the next year. Is that right?

Cory Mullins 3:04 

Yeah, oh, actually even go a little further. We actually start planning for this two years in advance. So there's a lot of time, a lot of things that go into this. A lot of items that people are doing to look over. You know, as Aaron kind of touched, on budgets on this are huge, which I think a lot of people don't really consider kind of all the time and money that really takes to put a show of this magnitude on.

Theresa Freed 3:25 

And Aaron, if you can talk about the airport's involvement.

Aaron Otto 3:28 

Sure, happy to. So just to put it to put the cherry on the top of the ice cream that Cory just talked about. When we were first looking to host the KC air show charities at New Century was for 2020's air show. Obviously, COVID had something to do with that. But I think I signed paperwork for that in March of 2018, requesting the Thunderbirds to come and perform. And so as we lost them in '20, we got them back in, well, '21, but really getting them to solo perform and highlight them this year is exceptional. So really a lot of it's just the coordination with what the volunteers and then what the different performers, both local and then the military performance teams needs are, which in some cases can include installing and arresting gear out there, which normally an airport wouldn't have, being a non-military airport per se. But just there's a lot of day-of type activity that we try to be supportive of, in addition to the throngs of volunteers that Cory's group recruits to help take place up there. You know, airports were built for air travel, they weren't built on 50,000 of your closest friends coming and spending a few hours with you and all wanting to leave at the same time. So that's just one more example the logistics that Cory's team gets to work through and did an incredible job at the '21 show, where I think everybody was off the airport premises for about 30 to 45 to 50 minutes, which is pretty exciting when you think about, you know, 50,000 people would make it like the 14th largest city in Kansas comes and decides to pay you a visit over the weekend. So huge numbers in the past of what we're looking at. And how do you make the logistics flow for, again, a place that wasn't really built for that per se? But through his work and some dollars and a lot of us is, you know, you can make that possible and make that happen.

Theresa Freed 5:01 

Alright, and Cory, can you talk a little bit more about the acts? So this event isn't, like, a one hour show. It's not like, you know, a couple hours at the circus. It's overdays. So can you discuss that?

Cory Mullins 5:14 

Yep. So both days, Saturday and Sunday, both same performers will be doing excellent on those days. However, we have so many acts. Currently, we're at 25 acts. So with that, we start flying at 10 a.m. And it's literally action going on in the sky at all times throughout the day. There's some other air shows, you know, that may have eight to 10 to 12 performers, and that's a big show for them. But like I said, we have 25, which, you know, it's almost double what some of these other air shows are. So with that, we literally will have one aircraft up in the sky, kind of holding back, we have another performer, what we call "on deck" while they're doing the performance. As soon as their performance ends, we put other aircraft out, put them in the sky. In addition to that, not only are the acts going on in the sky, we also have this year, another jet fire truck. It's definitely something that you want to come out and see. Obviously, you won't be able to see that from outside of the airport. So you need to be there to check that out. It's definitely an eye catcher and an awesome experience to see and also feel with the force of that jet engine.

Aaron Otto 6:14 

So that's something I would just add them what Cory said is, you know, some people may feel like, "Oh, I live near New Century AirCenter, one of Johnson County's airports. I can see part of this." You may see a small sliver of whatever's in the air. But you miss out on a good 80-plus percent of what takes place, because New Century is so large, that where they're doing their acrobatic work and performance really is center stage to the airport. In addition, you clearly miss the things like what Cory just mentioned, but also the static displays. Every inch of ramp that we have, I can assure you Cory's found a place to put a military aircraft or some kind of unique, historic aircraft, so that people have a chance, in some cases, to tour them and other cases just to see a piece of history up close and in person. And again, the only way that can happen is buying a ticket and hopping on a bus and heading over to New Century on the third or fourth of September.

Theresa Freed 7:00 

Alright, and I know this was mentioned, but this is really an event for, you know, the entire family. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are enthusiasts and pilots in our area who come, you know, annually to check things out. But if you have kids who, you know, maybe have an interest in cars and trucks and things like that, this is a great place for them too.

Aaron Otto 7:21 

Well one another thing that Corey mentioned, last year's show, I think you said there were tickets sold to people with addresses from like 40 or 43 states. I mean, that's extraordinary. But again, when you have one of the military performance teams coming, I'm now on their fan pages after last year, people travel, because they only get to do about 30 shows a year each, and if it's anywhere nearby, it's amazing the following those two groups will bring to say the least, between the Blue Angels of the Navy and the Thunderbirds of the Air Force. But Cory probably has some better statistics than my memory.

Cory Mullins 7:48 

Yeah, like Aaron said, we have 48 states is what we recorded that we had people from. And this year, we're already looking at that. So again, this year is even going to be, even though we don't have both jet teams, it's still going to turn out to be a very huge show from we're looking at performer-wise as well as attendee-wise. Things that we have, you know, as far as we mentioned, for all family. We have everything for kids. We have STEM education items, a monster truck experience, you can ride in a monster truck with them. The full Shelby Corral, you know, for the guys and the dads out there, the big car enthusiasts, we have that as well. Your aviation enthusiasts, your aircraft, your older war-type aircraft as well. Your new aircraft such as the Osprey, as well as your trainers and your other different aircrafts that definitely are things you don't get to see on a normal basis.

Aaron Otto 8:38 

And we can't take this for granted. I mean, yes, there was an air show last year. Yeah, we were really blessed to have in a very unique experience, both military performance teams actually performing in the same air show. That rarely happens. But to put in perspective, prior to the 2021 show at New Century, my understanding is the last time we had a performance team for one of the military's branches was 1982. So they get hundreds of invitations each year to go to different shows, can honor about 30 each. And so the fact that we've had them two years back to back is extraordinary. In addition to what Cory mentioned, there's some of the same performers, some are new, much of the static display, there's some variation there. It's always a new, different show. And just thinking I when I was a kid, I grew up outside Grand Island, Nebraska, and we had the Thunderbirds there. And you know, as a kid, what an impression that made, and just how amazing that was to say the least, that was one of the most vivid memories I had being, like, seven or eight years old, to say the least. And so as Cory said, there's something for everybody, from good, you know, a little bit of fair food and other good opportunities to spend a full day because it's not just one show, as Cory said, there's something there all the time. And that's what I think surprises people like, "Oh, I'll show up at noon." Well then you've missed two, three hours worth of the show if you show up at noon kind of thing. So...

Theresa Freed 9:46 

So full day of activities for everybody. That sounds great. Yeah, I've got two little boys and every time we drive past our airports I get to point out, you know, there's a helicopter, there's a plane, I don't know anything about them, but they're still impressed when they get to see them takeoff. So it sounds like a great event, again, for the whole family. So now we want to kind of highlight one of our acts. So Patti, if you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

Patty Wagstaff 10:10 

So I'm Patty Wagstaff. I'm an air show performer. I fly an extra, which is a real extraordinary aerobatic plane built in Germany and imported to the U.S. And I have flown extras for a long time. And they are very maneuverable, they're fast, but they can also fly slow. And I sort of call my style smooth and aggressive but also hardcore aerobatic. So myself and a couple of the other performers that do this kind of aerobatics, it's unlimited aerobatics where you can do everything you can think of in an airplane pretty much. We fly upside down, right side up, straight up, straight down, we tumble the airplanes end over end. And one thing I do, I'm not sure if anybody else is doing it at the show is inverted ribbon cut, where we stretch, we have two poles, and we stretch ribbon across the runway, and I cut it with my prop about 20 feet off the ground upside down. So that's always exciting. And another thing that you can't see from outside the gates, so come on in and enjoy the whole air show.

Theresa Freed 11:18 

Alright, that sounds great. And I know it's always probably a question I'm sure that you get. But I mean, can you talk about how you got into this?

Patty Wagstaff 11:26 

Yeah, everybody wants to know, how do you get into something like this? You're part of this flying circus here. I come from an aviation family. I think you'll find a lot of the performers actually do. Not all of them. But you know, one thing leads to another. I tell people it was the only thing I'd ever done flying and flying aerobatics, was the only thing I ever did that my parents thought was normal. And it's just the kind of family I came from. But you know, we just start by getting our license and taking lessons and then, you know, you start in kindergarten, work your way up into grade school. And the next thing you're in high school. It's a lot of work. It's really a lifestyle choice, rather than just a hobby, you know, for people that fly air shows, you know, the performance that you're gonna see at this air show in particular that are very well known and, you know, highly skilled. So it's a lifestyle that your whole life sort of focuses around your skill level and how you take care of yourself and how you prepare.

Theresa Freed 12:25 

And so do you want to talk a little bit about the the choreography? How do you kind of map that out? And how do you practice it?

Patty Wagstaff 12:31 

It's interesting, because we have a lot of latitude in how we design our own sequence and our own routine. We fly for about 12 to 15 minutes, most of us. And so everything is based on, you know, what you like to do, what you are best at for one. You know, what kind of skills do you want to show people? What's a good routine to keep things close? I like to keep my routine really pretty low to the ground and close to the crowd so that I'm not going too high or too far away. Because as soon as you do that, you kind of lose, you know, people lose interest. So I keep it...I call it barnstormer aerobatics and just keep it right in front of the crowd. I don't get very high, maybe get up to about 1,500 feet. And that's about it. And the rest of it is just right there. Right in the middle of my show is the ribbon cut. And then I do the second part of the show. After that, of course, we play really cool music and the announcer is going to explain what we're doing while we're doing it. But putting routine together is not easy. It's all about energy management. So when you go up, you get slow. When you come down, you get fast, and you have to turn that speed into altitude every single time you go back and forth across the box. So there's a lot of planning and thought that goes into it.

Theresa Freed 13:53 

All right, well, that all sounds very impressive, and something I wouldn't dare dream of doing. But I did get to fly with the Golden Knights twice. When I was a television news reporter I got to do a tandem jump with them.

Patty Wagstaff 14:05 

Oh that's neat.

Theresa Freed 14:06 

Yeah it was so fun and so exciting. I still have the videos of those. And it's the only way I can convince my children that I was interesting at one point in my life. They're impressed by it. But I don't have much beyond that. But it was a really fun experience. And I know it was, I think one of them was at least part of an air show. And you know, the crowds just, you know, they love it, and there's always something going on. It's so exciting and interesting. And it might even inspire people to to do this kind of work or to learn more about aircraft or the military. And so that's always pretty interesting. So when you talk about kind of flying low to the ground, I'm sure that it raises questions about safety and security at these sorts of events. So do you all want to talk about sort of the measures that are taken to make sure this is a safe event?

Patty Wagstaff 14:58 

Oh, there are a lot rules about flying air shows and flying low, and it's a whole program that you have to go through. Not anybody can just do that, you know, you have to go through a lot of steps to be able to do that. And so I know that the air show, you have some really good performers coming this year that are, that's what we do for a living. I mean, this isn't just a hobby, like I said, it's kind of a, you know, ongoing, all the time practice thing. So yeah, you know, we have people that have to evaluate us once a year, and there are a lot of rules that the crowd doesn't even need to know about that are, you know, technical rules about what we can do. And we keep ourselves in good shape, keep the airplanes in great shape, and so on and so forth. But you know, you're talking about air shows being inspirational. And to me, that's the most important thing about air shows is that, like you said, you know, you drive by with your little boys, and you point out the airplanes. Well, you can't just walk onto the ramp and touch those airplanes, or see those airplanes on a normal basis. And you can't go to a military base and walk onto the ramp. I mean, they'll arrest you or worse. So, you know, you can't walk up to an Osprey on a marine base, and you can't walk up to an airliner at a, you know, major commercial airport. So the only time you can really get close to airplanes and touch them and smell them and see them and maybe go sit in them is at an air show. So it's really the place to inspire people to get into aviation. Or even if they don't learn to fly, maybe they'll have an interest in one of the other aspects of aviation or airspace. You know, Garmin, being the major sponsor for the show, employs a lot of people in the aviation business. And not all of them are pilots. Air traffic controllers, rocket scientists and people like that, a lot of them get inspired by air shows. And you can ask any air show performer, but anybody that's done this for a few years gets letters from people and emails saying, "I saw you fly when I was 10 years old, and that's when I decided to be a pilot" or "I decided to get into aerospace" or, you know. I was on the original Microsoft Flight Simulator, I guess, games. And so a lot of the kids saw me on that. And they're like, "I used to fly your airplane when I was 10 years old" and, you know, really inspired me to get into aviation. So that, to me, is what's really important about air shows. It's entertaining, it's fun, but it's also about hoping that people appreciate aviation more.

Theresa Freed 17:37 

Certainly, that's great information. Alright, anything to add on to that courier, Aaron? Just, you know, again, about safety and security?

Cory Mullins 17:45 

We take safety, our number one. There's a lot of safety factors that go into that. We have numerous different crash and response crews on site, always make sure of that. As far as from the attendee side, we have security ongoing with that to make sure that we don't have any issues with that. And there's just a really good family-oriented, clean show.

Aaron Otto 18:03 

I would just add the amount of coordination that Cory's team puts in advance and pulling together. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office, MED-ACT, Olathe PD, Gardner PD, airport staff. I mean, the list of folks goes on. I'm afraid to mention names because I know I'll leave some out. But that just gives you an idea of the breadth and depth. It's all waiting behind the scenes, if there happens to be an incident or it's too warm and somebody gets a little dehydrated, that there's people to respond on site. And it was some, I think, very effective management of that in 2021 when we had the event on the Fourth of July weekend. And it was pretty warm. And we'll see what this year of Labor Day for the temperatures will be. But you know, that that worked really well to see the public public response to those situations.

Theresa Freed 18:41 

Alright, that's terrific. And just final question, probably most important question, how do people take part in this event?

Cory Mullins 18:47 

So right now, tickets are available online. Actually, online sales is the only way to get the tickets. If you go to That's You can pick up those tickets right now on sale, discounted tickets for GA are still going on at $45. You can go and get your tickets for that and make sure they don't sell out.

Theresa Freed 19:06 

Alright, that sounds good. And of course, you guys are very active on social media. We're sharing some of your content too. So if people are interested in seeing some of the videos, kind of a preview of what you can expect, that's a great place to check that out, too. And we'll have in our show notes of this episode that link to where you can go and get your tickets. Well, thank you all for joining me today. It was great information and a very exciting preview of what we can expect for this event.

Cory Mullins 19:32 

Thank you.

Aaron Otto 19:33 

Thank you.

Patty Wagstaff 19:34 

Thanks for having me. I can't wait.

Theresa Freed 19:36 

Alright, and thanks for listening.

Announcer 19:38 

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at jocogov. For more on this podcast, visit Thanks for listening.

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