Despite smoky BC skies, thousands of airshow enthusiasts had high expectations for the Abbotsford International Airshow. They were not disappointed. An stunning lineup of static and performing aircraft showed just why this event has been designated ‘Canada’s national airshow’.
In 1940, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) purchased the land on which Abbotsford Airport was built. Construction began in 1943. Nineteen years later, the first Abbotsford Airshow was held. Since then, the annually held show has developed into a true international airshow – one of the biggest in North America.
Airshow President Jim Reith described the show as a visual history of Canadian aviation, with display aircraft ranging from World War I era fighters to bush planes and the most modern jets, such as the F-35 fifth generation fighter. “‘True North Strong’, our theme for 2017, points to a defining characteristic of the Canadian identity and we aim to celebrate the role that aviation has played in our history,” he said.
Not only did the airshow celebrate the history of Canadian aviation, it has itself also become a part of Canadian aviation history, over the past 55 years of its existence. “The Abbotsford International Airshow plays an important role in Canada’s aviation story and is a key component of our city’s history and culture,” said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun. “We are very proud to support its success each year. It is a truly working example of community spirit, international friendship and world class entertainment.”
The airshow, which was held from August 11 to 13, followed immediately after the conclusion of the Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo (ADSE) and CBAA (Canadian Business Aviation Association) joint trade convention, which was also held at the airport. During the week preceding the airshow, Abbotsford’s skies were filled with thick smoke from the devastating BC wildfires, but the smoke cleared over the weekend to reveal a beautiful partly cloudy sky.
After the show had been opened by the Canadian Army Parachute Team, the Skyhawks, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds were the first aircraft to fly. The Snowbirds completed each of their performances with the grace and precision for which they have become famous. The USA’s Heritage Flight was a definite highlight, with the formation consisting of an F-35A Lightning II, leading an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a n F-86 Sabre and P-51 Mustang. The US Navy’s Tactical Demonstration F/A-18 Super Hornet’s flight was another highlight, particularly its high speed, transonic passes. The RCAF’s CF-18 Demonstration Team provided a similarly dynamic display. That said, the programme was packed with terrific performances and rare aircraft, ranging from Pete McLeod’s Red Bull Air Race style display, to flights by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, a P-51B Mustand, A-1 Skyraider and Bob Carlton’s Super Salto Jet Sailplane. On the ground, crowds could see a wide variety of aircraft up close, including civil utility aircraft, fighter jets, search and rescue helicopters, transport aircraft and many others. The most unusual sight in the static display area was arguably a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II.
Perhaps the time is now to start planning to attend next year’s Abbotsford International Airshow, held from August 10 to 12, especially considering that the US Navy Blue Angels have confirmed that they will be appearing at next year’s show.