Huntington Beach brings back Pacific Airshow, agrees to settlement in related lawsuit

Mayor Tony Strickland speaks during a press conference about the Pacific Airshow on Tuesday at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

City of Huntington Beach leaders announced Tuesday the Pacific Airshow will be staying in the city — following the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the city by the airshow operator.

Code Four chief executive Kevin Elliott, who leads the production each year, appeared alongside Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark and other city leaders at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Pier Plaza.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we saved the Airshow,” Strickland exclaimed dramatically after stepping up to the microphone.


The 2023 version of the three-day event, which brings millions of people — and dollars — to Huntington Beach each year, will be held on Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

Elliott has been supportive of the City Council’s conservative majority, including Strickland, Van Der Mark, Casey McKeon and Pat Burns, all of whom were elected last fall. Their election occurred just weeks after Elliott filed a civil lawsuit against the city and former Mayor Kim Carr, claiming the decision to cancel the final day of the 2021 Pacific Airshow due to a massive oil spill cost him and his company millions.

“I maintained hope that there would be a council that would take the view that the four have,” Elliott said. “Thank God that the residents voted for a council that was going to have the best interests of the city in mind, otherwise the Airshow would certainly not be here.”

Per settlement details provided by City Atty. Michael Gates, Huntington Beach will pay the Pacific Airshow a total of $4,999,000 over the next six years. Nearly half of that total, $1,999,000, is due on or before July 31 of this year. An additional $500,000 is due by Jan. 30 of 2024 and each of the following five years as well.

Kevin Elliott, the CEO of Code Four, speaks during a press conference about the Pacific Airshow on Tuesday.
Kevin Elliott, the CEO of Code Four, speaks during a press conference about the Pacific Airshow on Tuesday at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The city will also dismiss nearly $200,000 that the Pacific Airshow owes related to the 2021 show and refund $149,200 in fees paid by the airshow toward the 2022 Specific Events Invoice in the form of a credit.

The city will also waive parking space fees for the Pacific Airshow, as it has done in the past. Further, the city will pay to the Pacific Airshow up to $2 million, after attorney fees and costs, of Huntington Beach’s recovery in its own oil spill lawsuit.

Elliott told the Daily Pilot last fall, prior to filing the lawsuit, that the City Council had caused his business “millions and millions and millions in dollars in financial damage.” The last straw was when the previous council denied a parking offset subsidy to Code Four for last year’s Airshow.

“Everything was considered, including the economic impact,” Gates said Tuesday. “The council concluded that the settlement was favorable to the city.”

Though the Pacific Airshow has settled with the city, the lawsuit against Carr could continue.

“Her and her attorney will obviously have to address that with the Pacific Airshow, but the city has settled its portion,” Gates said.

Carr, reached Tuesday, said that a settlement was news to her and called the amount “shocking.”

She has a demurrer hearing scheduled for July in Orange County Superior Court.

“I can tell you that we are asking a judge to have this case dismissed,” Carr said. “The city, in my opinion, didn’t do anything wrong. I feel floored that they would pay $5 million to settle this lawsuit. The city did not cause an oil spill. The night that the Airshow was canceled, there were multiple agencies involved in that cancellation. It was not my decision, despite what Kevin Elliott is saying. I couldn’t make that decision if I tried.”

A crowd gathers to hear the city's plan to host the Pacific Airshow on Tuesday.
A crowd gathers to hear the city’s plan to host the Pacific Airshow at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Councilman Dan Kalmick, part of the current council minority along with Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton, said he was not invited to Tuesday’s news conference.

“This is a bad deal,” he said of the settlement. “There was no investigation into the lawsuit. This is taxpayer money going to a private entity to put on an airshow that used to be free.”

Kalmick said he was in favor of holding the event in Huntington Beach, but Strickland called the previous City Council “not business friendly” and “not Airshow friendly” in his remarks Tuesday.

According to a 2019 economic impact study commissioned by Visit Huntington Beach, the Pacific Airshow generated $68.1 million in direct spending and $105.8 million in total economic impact.

“Moving forward, our goal is that this becomes a signature event for many years to come,” Strickland said. “[Casey McKeon’s] boy Liam was born [last August], and we’re hoping that Casey’s boy brings his son to the Pacific Airshow.”

Tickets to this year’s show go on sale June 1. This year’s event will include the F-22 Raptor Demonstration team for the first time.