Since there aren’t many airshows happening in the depths of winter, of late I’ve found myself continually revisiting photographs and memories from airshows past! Although I really miss summer, the season of airshows, it’s fun to look back at great airshows past and to eagerly anticipate the coming airshow season!
One of the best airshows I’ve been to was the 2013 Great Lakes International Airshow at St. Thomas Municipal Airport. St. Thomas is an old railway hub and is also my home town; and though it only has a small airport and a population of around 30,000, the biannual airshow is always fantastic!
St. Thomas Municipal Airport is situated a few minutes outside the city, amidst fields of crops and popular greenhouses. It’s a pretty setting, reminiscent of the old airfield at Duxford, Oxfordshire– and the flat terrain is perfect for watching an airshow! I attended the 2013 show with my dad and brother, and we watched from a nearby clearing outside of the airport grounds in order to avoid the crowds. Our vantage point was surrounded by a few annoying trees, and we couldn’t see any of the performers’ takeoff runs, but it did turn out to be the best spot we could have possibly picked!
A field of something in front of a Snowbird (CT-114 Tutor) preparing for the show
The Snowbirds aerobatic team began the show, which was a bit unusual. I’m used to seeing them more towards the end of an airshow! But they put on a very nice performance; perhaps the best I’ve ever seen from them. There was some cloud cover, but we still had a wonderful view of their manoeuvres, and they performed all around and overhead which was so exciting!
A beautiful sweeping manoeuvre by four Snowbirds
The Snowbirds are renowned worldwide for their formation flying
Precision and guts are crucial to displays like the Snowbirds’!
A good view of a Snowbird’s distinctive underbelly colouring
Next out, as the sun began to show itself, were the Harvards! A favourite of mine since childhood, the Harvards always impress me.
The four sunny-yellow Harvards glinting in the sun
A Harvard coming in for landing. All the airplanes came right past us as they were on approach
Another favourite aircraft present was the C-130 Hercules. A mainstay of the Royal Canadian Air Force for the past 60 years, this enormous plane is used for transporting troops and supplies to even poorly-appointed airfields. Four turboprops power this 38-ton aircraft, which continues to feature strongly in Canada’s military operations.
Very occasionally, a Hercules flies over my house… a real treat!
Hardly the definition of aviation elegance, but I love this aircraft
Following the large and lumbering Hercules, we watched a BAC Strikemaster dance through the air. Used as a trainer and attack aircraft, the Strikemaster is no longer extensively operated, but it has enjoyed some popularity with private owners.
One Rolls-Royce turbojet is enough to provide this small plane with admirable performance
A highlight of the 2013 show was the appearance of a beautifully restored, bare-metal finish B-17. An American icon, the B-17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber lauded for its ability to take heavy damage and remain flying. This particular B-17, named Sentimental Journey, served in the Pacific Theatre and was also involved in post-war nuclear tests.
I’d been really excited to see the B-17!
This was a truly gorgeous plane, and we got some incredible views of it
I hardly thought the show could get better after seeing the B-17… but it could, and it did!! After a few moments of silence, we heard a roar from the direction of the airport. Although we couldn’t see anything, we knew that it could only be one thing- the CF-18 Hornet, Canada’s current fighter jet! Sure enough, it soon zipped past us with a graceful fury that was breathtaking.
The CF-18 has excellent controllability, even at the high angle of attack demonstrated here
There’s something so amazing about jet-powered aircraft, in particular. The power they possess is insane, and they just amaze me. Even though they lack the history and nostalgia of WWII-era piston-driven aircraft, for example, they have an appeal uniquely their own. I always look forward to the CF-18’s appearance at every airshow!
I love the vapour coming off the wings’ trailing edges in this photo
Every year the CF-18 demo team flies a new paint scheme. 2013’s was a nice one, with a prominent maple leaf on the tail
It was during the CF-18’s demonstration that we realized what an exceptional vantage point we had. It’s customary to see a High Alpha pass, several near-vertical climbs, and a gear-down pass from the CF-18 in its performance. The manoeuvre I like the best, however, is the high-speed pass. I imagine the demo pilot must feel the same way- because this is when he gets to roar past the crowd at a speed just barely under Mach 1!
At this airshow, although I was anticipating it, I was hardly ready for the high-speed pass. The CF-18 neared us at an exceptionally low altitude, and before I could believe what was happening, it was directly overhead! The noise was immense, and I was totally shocked by how fast and low it had gone! Fortunately, I’ve overcome the fear of loud noises that plagued me as a child; so I was able to (just) get a photo of the pass instead of covering my ears!
I still marvel at this pass. It was unbelievable
Needless to say, we were very glad that we’d stayed away from the airshow grounds! I’m not sure the lady sitting beside us was so thrilled, however- she made an awful fuss about how loud the Hornet had been.
The Hornet is an ungainly creature with its gears down!
“Stellar” and “exceptional” hardly describe this airshow appropriately! It was just wonderful, and writing about it on this dark December day might have given me just enough satisfaction to hold out until July, when airshows will be held again!