2014 Abbotsford International Airshow

I think it’s safe to say that right now we’re experiencing different times when it comes to air shows in Canada and North America. Gone are the days of packed military static ramps and endless fast jet flying displays. Sequestration in the U.S combined with our own forces budget constraints and operational commitments have made a substantial impact on military aircraft participation at air shows throughout the country. As a result, reputable air shows like Abbotsford have been forced to think outside the box in order to still offer visitors a memorable experience while staying viable in these current times. This years Abbotsford Airshow team did just that, coming together to add a few new twists to this years show to offer both the general public and photographers alike something different than in previous years.

Most notable of the changes this year was the events first ever 'Twilight Show’. In previous years, typically the show would kick off Friday morning continuing through Saturday and Sunday. This year, show organizers decided to do away with the Friday day show and instead offer a “Twilight Show’ giving visitors a unique opportunity to watch performers fly in the beautiful evening light. For this event gates opened at 4:30PM with light flying beginning at 5:00PM and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds officially opening the show at 6:00PM. Other notable acts through out the evening included the likes of the F8F Bearcat & F7F Tigercat “Cat Fight” routine, Ace Maker T-33, Bremont Horsemen P-51’s, CF-18 Demonstration Team and Team Rocket just to name a few caping off a great night of flying at 9:45PM with a fantastic fireworks display put on by Celebration Fireworks of Surrey B.C.

While static displays remained light due to factors previously mentioned, Saturday and Sundays flying did not disappoint with performers like The CF-18 Demo Team, CP-140 Aurora, Brent Handy, Greg Colyer and The Canadian Forces Snowbirds wowing the crowd with their power and precision. For many though, the highlight was an extremely rare appearance by one of only two flying Mosquito’s in the world — “F for Freddie”. Marking the first public appearance by the aircraft post restoration the Mosquito was not only displayed on the static ramp but also flew during the show. This particular airframe was manufactured post-war. As a result the Mosquito never saw active service and was placed straight into storage. In 1954 it was purchased by Spartan Air Services of Ottawa and spent many years mapping the northern territories of Canada. By 1966 it had been retired and disassembled. It was later bought by Don Campbell with the intention of returning it to the air, teaching Air Cadets at Kapusakasing Airport the processes of construction and engineering at the same time. The project was sold to Ed Zalesky in 1979 and then in 2005 Bob Jens who, after initially working on the restoration himself, enlisted Victoria Air Maintenance to compete it for him in 2009 The Mosquito saw it’s first taste of flight in forty-eight years only a few weeks prior to Abbotsford and on June 16, 2014 officially became only the second flying Mosquito in the world. The sound of the Mosquitos two Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 piston engines throughout the fraser valley was music to many ears, particularly for a group of veterans who attended the show on Sunday, some of which were pilots and navigators themselves on the type many years ago.

From a photographers stand point Saturday and Sunday also offered something different from previous years. Abbotsford Airshow Board of Director member Mike Luedey organized and put together a “Photo Pit” package for this years show. The package included a private tour of both the static and hot ramps prior to gates opening. Photo Pit participants were given a private catered chalet with internet access as well as two designated unobstructed shooting locations at the show site - one at show centre and one at the far west corner of the field for aircraft taxing in and out of the hot side. For Photo Pit participants that were attending the Twilight Show there was also an organized photo shoot on the Hot Ramp with F8F Bearcat and F7F Tigercat in conjunction with the fireworks display. Both of which aircrafts crews were kind enough to have both aircraft running for the duration of the display. This provided some fantastic photo opportunities, again, offering something different for attendees.

With the difficult times airshows are currently facing, Abbotsford Airshow organizers could have easily taken the easy route and cancelled this years show citing lack of support and operational commitments had adversely affected their ability to put together this years show. Instead they came together as a team, thought outside the box, and in turn showed the public yet again why this Airshow has the reputation it does. As a result the 2014 Abbotsford International Airshow remained one of the top shows in the country and one can ensure show organizers will do everything in their power to keep that trend going.

Special Thanks to:

The Abbotsford International Airshow
Mike Luedey
Capt Adam Runge
Capt Susan Magill

report and photos Stuart Sanders