From its beginning more than half a century ago, British Columbia’s annual Abbotsford Airshow has grown consistently to become one widely regarded as one of the best airshows, not only in Canada, but in the world.
The first Abbotsford Airshow took place in 1962, with 15 000 spectators attending the show over two days. Ove the years, the airshow gained considerable momentum, becoming more popular and featuring military jets and formation teams. This year, thousands of enthusiasts attended the show, which has become known as ‘Canada’s national airshow’, from 10 to 12 August.
As with previous years, the airshow was preceded by the Aerospace, Defence and Security Expo (ADSE), held at the Tradex Centre at Abbotsford International Airport. ADSE afforded delegates the opportunity to see industry exhibits, hear keynote speeches, and attend panels and workshops, and benefit from networking opportunities. As always, high-profile presenters provided the latest information and insights on topical industry related developments.
As the expo drew to a close on Friday afternoon, August 10, the airshow gates opened, allowing thousands of spectators to view an impressive static exhibition, which featured a variety of military and civil aircraft. A twilight show followed, setting the pace for the next two days’ airshow flying. Highlights included the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, as well as the US Navy Blue Angels team, which made its first appearance at the show in fifteen years. This year marked the 60th anniversary of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). This milestone was highlighted by the RCAF’s (Royal Canadian Air Force) CF-18 Demonstration Team’s Hornet, which had been given a beautiful NORAD paint scheme. In addition, a commemorative flypast was flown by a formation of US Air Force and RCAF fighters. On the ground, the airshow had a stunning assortment of activities, exhibits, show stands and food options. One of this year’s new attractions was ‘The Grandstand: A Craft Beer Experience.’ This fenced-in beer garden featured music between flying events, excellent seating and a several craft breweries to sample. As with previous years, the Nikon Photo Pit offered an ideal vantage point to aviation photographers, as well as the opportunity to try out Nikon’s latest equipment.
On Saturday afternoon, shortly after the day’s airshow had ended, there was an incident involving a rare Dragon Rapide of the Washington-based Historic Flight Foundation. Thankfully, due to the fact that an airshow had just taken place, emergency resources were already in place and able to respond quickly and professionally. The pilot and four passengers were hospitalized, although three of them were soon released.
On the following day, the airshow continued with its tremendous lineup of displays. Despite the previous evening’s incident, and smoke from hundreds of massive wildfires in British Columbia, the Abbotsford International Airshow was a definite success. Perhaps now is a good time to mark you calendar for next year’s show, set to take place from 9 to 11 August, which will feature the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds.
On July 29 and 30, warbirds, high performance aerobatic aircraft, along with the RCAF’s CF-18 Demonstration Jet and Snowbirds, took to the skies at the well-known Wings Over Springbank Airshow.
Among the many excellent performances, master entertainer Kent Pietch completed a truck-top landing, as well as a dead-stick aerobatic routine with his Interstate Cadet. He also performed his trademark comedy act, losing an aileron, wheel and more during the flight.
From July 14 to 16, the Lethbridge International Airshow celebrated its 25th anniversary. The event began with a twilight show on the Friday evening, followed by a an airshow on the Saturday, which was sadly interrupted by weather, and a ‘mini air show’ on the Sunday. In addition to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Snowbirds and CF-18 Demonstration Team, the show included air displays by an Alpha Jet, A-10 Thunderbolt II, T-33 Shooting Star and Vampire, to name a few. The most interesting display was arguably that of an RCAF CC-177 Globemaster, which demonstrated its surprising manoeuvrability and slow speed handling. In addition to Canadian military and civil aircraft, the static display included several notable aircraft from across Canada’s southern border, such as an MV-22 Osprey and P-8 Poseidon.
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.