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2009 Air Shows

Abbotsford International Air Show, Aug. 7-9

Location: Abbotsford International Airport, Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Admission: Adult $25, Child $10, Carload (max 8 persons) $80, Runway seating extra $10.

Parking: Free
Value: Good

The Abbotsford air show, just about 40 minutes east of Vancouver in B.C., historically has been one of the largest and perhaps the best Canadian air shows. Due to this good reputation, I finally decided to visit and review the air show. For me, being Toronto based, to visit Abbotsford was a considerable undertaking due to the 2800 miles distance (one way). So, with great anticipation, I looked forward to the air show.

The show headliners were the Snowbirds, Hawk One Sabre, Centennial Tutor, the Century CF-18, and the Skyhawks Parachute Team jumping from a USAF C-17 Globemaster. The Canadian Armed forces had a very good presence at Abbotsford, with several static and performing aircraft, including a tactical demonstration by the ground forces with air cover support. The US forces were extremely well represented both in the static and performer line up including the F-16 Viper West Demo Team. All the performances were good, but a bit on the short side on Sunday when it came to duration. Especially short were the Heritage Flight, (one pass from each direction L&R and the crossover, that was it), and the CF-18 Hornets during the tactical demo. There were a number of WWII warbirds; including the rare Grumman F7F Tigercat, from the cold war era, a Polish built MiG 17 in Polish markings, and several civilian performers including Rob Holland, who always dazzles the crowds with his extreme flying! The static display included the B-52H Stratofortress, KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker, the Royal Air force (UK) Sentry AEW1 Boeing E3D, and a number USAF fighters, trainers, and helicopters including the US Coast Guard’s MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter demonstrating Search And Rescue capabilities.

I would like to thank the following persons who made my visit especially memorable one: Captain Tim "Donor" Woods Demo Pilot and the crew of the CF-18 Century Team lead by Sgt. Jim Ryan, Captain Alexander Cadieux Public Affairs Officer, National Defence, Major Ryan Palmer Pilot and the crew of the CP-140 Aurora, S/Sgt. Nigel Bushe, RCMP, and Roger Bishop.

The weather, unfortunately, was far from the best. On Friday and Saturday it was overcast with a low ceiling, and it was just too dark and monotone gray for great photography, and, it was surprisingly chilly on Friday. On Sunday it started out with gray clouds, even a few droplets of rain materialized for about 20 seconds, then clouds dissipated rapidly and the sun broke through. In all, Sunday was the best for viewing and for photography.

The layout of the show, as shown in the diagram, favors the VIP and Chalet section of the show, which was fenced off from the general public with its own parking area too. The general admission viewing area beyond the orange fencing provides adequate viewing but far from exceptional. For an additional $10.00, one could upgrade and move from the orange fenced area up to 30 yards closer to the flight line, in the reserved seating section. (Depending in which row they would be sitting, and as long as all the people remained seated, and were not larger than an average sized person, I must qualify this).

Regardless where one stands or sits to view low level action, landings or take offs, one just about required binoculars, or a 400mm+ lens for good viewing or photography due to the distance from the runway and the flight line. However, using such sized telephoto lens would not truly help in getting a close up shot of an aircraft on the tarmac, due to heat haze, which just makes all the shots wavy and distorted. For panning and continuous shooting the speakers mounted on flag poles in front of the orange fence approx. 50 yards, also interfered. A number of my shots were ruined due to this. Of course using a smaller telephoto or zoom lens will work on larger aircraft, but for the jet fighters or WWII warbirds, it would limit the image size.

While the location of the media tent did not affect the general public much, for the working pro, it was placed way too far back from the fenced line. The elevated stand did not offer much improvement either. In addition, the working pros were not allowed in earlier to take proper photos of static aircraft, without the crowds, as this is the arrangement and is pretty much the standard at most air shows. Some of the misinformed volunteers who directed traffic were not helpful or were quite rude, as I and many other media persons had problems in getting to the designated media parking area. The volunteer staff at the Media tent was friendly, and showed good hospitality, and assisted where they could. Thank you, Tony and John for that!

There were plenty of food and beverage concession stands, but the speed of actually buying something, was hampered by the fact one had to line up several times; first to buy a coupon, then to use the coupon to get the food and beverage. Simply put, using coupons are very inefficient, and are a time wasting solution. I’d suggest this should just be scrubbed to improve customer friendly service.

Sanitation facilities were plenty, but instead of just portable units, there were also trailers for women and men, and urinal tents for the men! Hello, maybe the organizers enjoy standing in someone’s urine leaking from the urinal trough, I certainly do not!!!

The above issues are our thoughts and should be considered improvements by the organizers.

My over all impression of the Abbotsford air show taking all the above into consideration: It was good and well organized in many ways but lacked some organization details and proper follow through. Abbotsford air show has the potential to truly be Canada’s best air show with some required improvements, but until then, I can only give it 7.5 out of 10.

The list of some of the performing warbirds at the show:

  • The Snowbirds
  • CF-18 Century & CF-18
  • F-86 Hawk One
  • CT-114 Centennial Tutor
  • CP-140 Aurora
  • F-16 Viper West Demo Team
  • USN F/A-18 Super Hornet Rhino
  • F-15C Strike Eagle
  • C-17 Globemaster
  • MiG 17 Fresco
  • F7F Tigercat
  • P-51B Mustang "Impatient Virgin"
  • P-51D Mustang "Val Halla"
  • A-26 Invader
  • T-6 Texan RCAF Golden Hawk colours.
  • and many more
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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