Dayton Q&A

Five questions with air show’s Rob Reider.

Mike Boyer

Rob Reider didn’t think he could make a living being an announcer for air shows.

But over the last 30 years Reider, a longtime Cincinnati/Dayton TV performer, has been the voice of hundreds of air shows from Florida to Japan, including the Dayton air show regularly since 2002. It’s helped fuel his love of aviation and earned him the “Sword of Excellence” award from the International Council of Air Shows in 2007.

A licensed pilot who also has been the on-camera host for Sporty’s Pilot Shops pilot training videos for decades, Reider will again be at the microphone at the Vectren Dayton Air Show June 23-24 at the Dayton International Airport featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels. He also coaches announcers for the Blue Angels and the Army’s Golden Knight’s Parachute team.

How did you get started being an air show announcer?
I always loved aviation. I was a HAM radio operator and I was working communications for the air show at Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport in 1978 when the regular announcer didn’t show up and they asked me to step in. I began volunteering at the Dayton air show in 1979. As time went by they asked me to step in and do some announcing. Bill Bordeleau, a longtime announcer for the show, gave me mic time, people encouraged me and the show began to pay me some money. I joined the International Council of Air Shows in 1995 and started picking up a few shows that Bill Bordeleau helped me with. In 2006 I went fulltime in the air show business and I’ve been doing it ever since.

How did you pick up flying yourself?
I got to take a flight with the Air Force Thunderbirds in 1980 and afterward I told my wife, “I have to get a pilot’s license, it’s just too amazing.” I got my license in 1982 and have been flying ever since. I flew other people’s planes for years until 2016 when I bought my own, a Van’s RV-7A, a single-engine, two seater. Last year I flew it to 15 of the 22 air shows I did.

What’s the worst moment for an air show announcer?
Seeing people die in front of you. I knew wing walker Jane Wicker and her pilot Charlie Schwenker (both were killed in a fiery crash while performing at the 2013 Dayton show). I knew Jane exceptionally well. She and I had been friends for years. Jane’s fiance was standing next to me when the accident happened.

You compartmentalize it right away. You can’t let yourself get emotionally involved. In 2007 I was announcing when stunt pilot Jim LeRoy died in a crash at the Dayton show. There were certain things I had to say and it was tough to say them. That year I had four fatalities in front of me. It was a tough year.

What do you enjoy most about air show announcing?
I’m not sure it’s the announcing as much as it is the people you work with. To quote a friend, “The people who were my heroes are now my friends.” I enjoy hanging around those people and being with them as much as watching them fly. There’s a camaraderie that comes with what they’re doing. They’re fun to be with and work with.