Toronto Airshow 2014

Toronto’s annual airshow, the Canadian International Air Show, happens every Labour Day weekend along the waterfront of Ontario’s capital. I attended it once or twice when I was very young- an irritating fact now, since I apparently saw the Red Arrows aerobatic team perform, yet remember absolutely nothing about it! This summer I attended again, for the first time in many years.

In the past, the CIAS has had incredibly impressive line-ups, including the Blue Angels, Harrier jump jets, a Luftwaffe Phantom and Tornado, WWII aircraft, and a fantastic A-10 Warthog. 2014’s line-up was comparatively sparse and home-grown, but it remained an enjoyable spectacle. What wasn’t so amazing was our seats- to avoid the crowds and admission fees, we sat maybe a kilometre from where the show is actually staged, so many of the airborne displays were pretty distant from our vantage point.

Surprisingly early in the show, Canada’s current fighter jet appeared. The CF-18 Hornet, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, is a versatile and seasoned multirole fighter. It is powered by two General Electric turbofans, and features nine hardpoints which can carry bombs, missiles, or rockets. It also has a Gatling cannon mounted in the nose, which may not be often used in today’s combat situations, but which is impressive nonetheless. Canada’s fleet of Hornets is aging, but the CF-18 remains a fantastic aircraft to watch at airshows.

F-18 CIAS 2014

The CF-18 banks sharply over Lake Ontario


We were treated to several high-speed passes, complete with afterburners. Flying with afterburners on is referred to in the aviation world as running ‘wet’

Another performer (which I remembered from the Hamilton Airshow of 2013) was a Beech 18 which gave us an exciting aerobatic display. Utility planes from the late ’30s didn’t make their name based on their aerobatic capabilities, so it was fun to see such a plane spiralling around the sky.

Beech 18 CIAS 2014

Someday I would love to fly in a plane pulling these kinds of manoeuvres 

Another plane not renowned for manoeuvrability at the CIAS was the C-123 Provider- also known as the “Thunder Pig”. Although we had an amazing view of its entrance and it looked very familiar, we had no idea what it was until after the airshow. We could tell that it was roughly from the Vietnam era, and that it wasn’t a C-130 Hercules, but that was about it. It turns out that the C-123 was built by Fairchild Aircraft for the USAF, and was used during Vietnam to drop Agent Orange. So it has an unpleasant operational history, but it was a fascinating plane to see.

C-123 CIAS 2014

The C-123’s entrance- right overhead! Note the short fuselage and two radial engines

Thunder Pig CIAS 2014

The C-123’s display reminded me of my favourite military transport aircraft, the C-130 Hercules

A true Canadian staple came in the form of the Snowbirds demonstration team. This team of nine utilizes the CT-114 Tutor aircraft, which served as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s jet trainer until 2000. I think that the Snowbirds display would be quite awe-inspiring to someone who hasn’t seen it before, but I’ve seen it three times in the past three years and it’s gotten staid to me. But despite my thoughts on the Snowbirds, they do have several spectacular elements; and aircraft flying in formation is a cool sight.

Snowbirds CIAS 2014


A low formation pass


Snowbirds Formation CIAS 2014


Seven aircraft overhead, trailing airshow smoke

Throughout the show we saw planes from many countries and eras; such as a razorback P-51 Mustang, a Soviet An-2 Colt biplane (the world’s biggest single-engined biplane), a T-33 Shooting Star, and four WWI aircraft including a Fokker Dr.I triplane. But my favourite plane of the airshow was the one I attended for- a real MiG-17!

The MiG-17 Fresco was devised by the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, and was one of the USSR’s first jet-powered aircraft. It resembles both its predecessor the MiG-15 Fagot,  and its American opponent the F-86 Sabre. Vietnamese MiG-17s faced American F-86s during the Vietnam War, and- to the genuine surprise and dismay of the Americans- claimed over 70 aerial victories. These subsonic Soviet planes managed to successfully combat such state-of-the-art aircraft as the F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom.

MiG-17 CIAS 2014

I had trouble getting any decent pictures of the nimble and modest-sized MiG-17

MiG-17 Fresco CIAS

From this angle and distance, the MiG-17 could well be mistaken for an F-86 Sabre

As a huge fan of Soviet aircraft and military history, I was thrilled to see a real-life MiG. It was the first flying MiG I’ve ever seen, and it was something to remember. So although CIAS 2014 didn’t boast the Blue Angels or a Tornado, it still impressed me and made for a special and memorable afternoon.



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