This year was an exciting one in the Canadian airshow scene, thanks to the return of Airshow London! Growing up, I always heard stories from my parents about London’s legendary airshow, which was huge in the ’90s and which attracted aircraft from both Canada and the US. I remember seeing photos my parents took of aircraft like the F-117 Nighthawk, a stealth bomber developed by the secretive Skunk Works, and beasts like the F-4 Phantom. Aircraft like these just aren’t seen in Canada; yet they could be seen at Airshow London. However, due to one reason or another, the airshow that was so popular and exciting in the ’90s came to an end, before I even got to see it. At every airshow my family has attended since, my parents have reminisced about the incredible experience Airshow London offered. It became quite legendary in my family, and my brother and I were always jealous. Imagine our elation when we heard that in 2016, Airshow London was to return!
Although we were initially skeptical, as the airshow drew closer and more performers were confirmed, it was clear that Airshow London 2016 was indeed to be a return to the glory of the ’90s! Dozens of planes were to be on show, including the USAF’s most precious and high-tech jet; the F-22 Raptor. Needless to say, nothing was going to stop us from seeing this airshow!! My mum and I spent the weekend at a campground nearly bordering the airport– which turned out to be the best accommodation ever. Planes began arriving at the airport on Friday night, and some even seemed to do impromptu routines before the show began.
A CT-114 Tutor of the Snowbirds right over our campsite.
It was so exciting to hear the jets overhead and try to catch sight of them through the trees!
My mum and I sat in our tent and were reading each other trivia as it got dark; and we could hear commercial and airshow traffic still coming in to the airport. That added to the excitement– I couldn’t wait to see all these aircraft that I was hearing! Around 22:00, we heard something new. It was the sound of rotors. It was quite loud, and we were sure it must be overhead but it only got louder and louder! Soon it was deafening and we could feel the ground shaking– it must have been a huge helicopter, and it must have been low! Whatever it was came overhead a second time, and it was actually quite scary because we couldn’t see it; we could only hear and feel the power coming from it.
There were a few choppers at London, but they were small and not terribly loud (relatively speaking!). This MH-53E Sea Dragon of the US Navy has to have been what flew over us late on Friday!
The Sea Dragon is a less-common variant of the Super Stallion; America’s largest helicopter. It is also related to the Pave Low helicopter, which those of younger generations may know from Modern Warfare 3. The Super Stallion and its variants are often used for heavy-lift duties; with an external payload of 36,000 lbs they can easily transport pairs of Humvees and even CH-47 Chinooks– which are not exactly small helicopters themselves!
The main rotor assembly of the Sea Dragon. At work at Mitsubishi, I get to see plenty of cars disassembled which is very cool. I only wish I could get a closer look at the mechanical parts of an aircraft like this!!
This chopper is the definition of imposing. It was incredible!
I also got to see some old favourites on the tarmac– like the Harvard. Used as a trainer during World War II, the Harvard has always been my favourite plane. I adore the distinctive yellow livery, the snubbed nose, the growling sound… Someday I am going to fly one of these!!
The Harvard is just so nice!
Along with the familiar planes, there were many which were much more exotic. One was a B-1 Lancer bomber from Texas! The B-1 is a really elegant aircraft; nothing like the monstrous B-52 Stratofortress it was originally meant to replace. It is a supersonic variable-geometry aircraft which during the Cold War was capable of carrying nuclear ordnance; and although its role has changed greatly throughout its life, it remains a reliable and versatile heavy bomber.
Although the B-1 is a large aircraft (its extended wingspan is 137 feet), it’s also very beautiful
Close-up of the variable-sweep wing where it meets the fuselage. Here the wings are unswept; a configuration which is better suited to low speed performance.
The Americans really pulled out all the stops for Airshow London– without them, it wouldn’t have been half the show it was. The USAF, US Navy, US Coast Guard, and US National Guard were all represented. At the static displays, the aircrew were on hand to talk to visitors about both their aircraft and their own personal experiences in them; which gave the airshow a human side.
A US Navy E-2C Hawkeye, quite an unusual-looking plane.
The radar dome mounted on the Hawkeye’s fuselage is what gives this aircraft its unique early warning capabilities. The multiple vertical stabilisers are another unusual distinguishing feature.
A compact yet deadly F-16 Fighting Falcon; developed in the 1970s but still an extremely common fighter in air forces around the world.
Many of the static displays brought back memories– there was a KC-135 Stratotanker, of which I’d seen a few in Maine several years ago. There was also a US Navy T-45 Goshawk, which is a modified version of the BAE Hawk. Hawks are used extensively as training aircraft in the UK (they’re also used by the famous Red Arrows), and I have great memories of seeing them flying over the fields and valleys of Yorkshire.
My dad and brother admiring the long-lived Stratotanker. It’s been in service for over 50 years, and is still the workhorse which refuels the jet fighters so essential to the USAF.
This plane would look nicer with RAF roundels on it, but it’s a lovely little aircraft!
And of course there were jets galore. The Royal Canadian Air Force only operates one fighter jet (the CF-18 Hornet), and it was so cool to see the array of fighters brought by the Americans. Although they’re all built on the same premise, they’re all so different and so beautiful!
The F-15 Eagle is an awesome-looking plane, built for air superiority and one of the most successful planes of the modern era.
Two CF-18s, on the tarmac preparing for a flight to the nation’s capital.
There are always unique, specialised aircraft to be found at airshows. At London we got to see a Red Bull Air Racing plane, which has to be the most manoeuvrable thing around. And there was also a Jet Provost, which is essentially the trainer version of the ground-attack BAC Strikemaster.
This racer is flown by Pete McLeod, a home-grown pilot who competes with the greatest aerobatics pilots in the world.
Although retired now, the Jet Provost was an important jet trainer for the RAF during the Cold War.
Based on the static displays alone, Airshow London was a spectacle! But of course, airplanes are built to fly and that is the focus of my next Airshow London post. I hope you enjoyed this one and will watch for the next!