Staring at the sky could become a regular tourist attraction for Myrtle Beach.
This week, it was the eclipse. In the spring, necks could be craning upwards to the roar of jet engines as F-22 Raptors and other fighter jets with the Blue Angels squadron perform an air show at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
Airport officials estimate the show could attract tens of thousands of visitors to the area and add millions of dollars to the local economy. They hope an air show next year would turn into an annual event.
But first, the airport needs approval from the county council to pay for the show.
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It will cost $150,000 to produce the show with the famed Blue Angels, and the Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority has committed to pitching in $50,000.
The county council needs to approve the rest of the spending, and indicated this week they want to make it happen.
“It’s an awesome thing,” said Councilman Gary Loftus. “Especially with what it brings in (for tourism). It’s a bargain.”
Similar events in Georgia have resulted in an economic impact of almost $5 million, said Judi Olmstead, assistant director of airports.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said a spring show with the Blue Angels has the potential to attract thousands of visitors and generate an economic impact of several million dollars.
The event would give a boost to Grand Strand tourism heading into the summer, Dean said.
Airport officials are asking the county for permission to use funding from airport revenues to pay for the remaining $100,000.
If approved, next year’s show would be the first appearance of the Blue Angels over the Grand Strand since 2004.
An air show featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was expected to attract 31,000 tourists to Myrtle Beach in 2013 with an economic impact of $2.5 million, show promoters said at the time.
But, the event was canceled when the Thunderbird’s team was temporarily grounded during the federal shutdown that year.
Olmstead says that some road traffic would be temporarily detoured for one hour along two blocks of Kings Highway near Farrow Parkway during the April 28 and 29 show, and for a rehearsal on April 27.
Air traffic would also be limited to commercial planes, and Olmstead said they would work with airlines to make sure their flight times aren’t disrupted.
The Blue Angels are a Navy flight demonstration squadron made up of sailors and Marines. The elite squadron flies acrobatic formations and stunt maneuvers at dozens of shows each year.
Aircraft that could be expected to make a flying appearance with the Blue Angels in Myrtle Beach includes the B-52 Bomber, F-35 fighter jets, P-3 Orion, F-16 Fighting Falcon and the C-17 aircraft, Olmstead said.