The CLEVELAND AIR SHOW is an indirect successor of the NATL. AIR RACES, which were first held in Cleveland in 1929 as a competitive event. The first air show, in 1964 at BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT, was underwritten by Geo. Steinbrenner. Approximately 10 years later a corporation was formed to run the show, Cleveland Natl. Air Show, Inc. The show continued along the same vein as earlier races, including such features as parachute teams, aerobatic teams, high-powered biplanes, and formula race heats. Some of the more famous acts included the Air Force Thunderbirds, the Navy's Blue Angels, and the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. In 1981 a fatal accident involving the Air Force Thunderbirds took the life of Lt. Col. David L. Smith. The crash was caused by birds entering the engine through the air intakes on either side of the fuselage.
The most prominent air show in the country, the Cleveland Air Show boasts military and civilian participants from around the world, with attendance estimates over 120,000 by 1994. The show is governed by a 56-member Board of Trustees whose mission is to operate the highest quality family event and donate excess revenue (an average of $700-800,000 in recent years) to local charities. Often called the "Carnegie Hall" of air shows, it has become a tradition for Cleveland's Labor Day weekend. In 1995 the executive director of the Cleveland Air Show was Charles K. Newcomb.