The 51st Abbotsford International Airshow was the show to see in the Pacific Northwest this year. With sequestration budget cuts forcing the US Navy Blue Angels to abandon their planned performance at this year’s Seafair in Seattle, WA and Air Mobility Command to axe their biannual AMC Rodeo held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, our friends to the north once again provided the venue and the acts to entice all of us die hard aviation fans for this season. However, the British Columbia-based show didn’t escape the impact of the US budget cuts either.
While the Canadian Armed Forces stepped up their participation in the show this year with a CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue demo, the return of the Canadian Forces field assault demo, Skyhawks Parachute Team, and the CF-18 Hornet demo, the performances were noticeably without their usual rumble and roar of US military hardware. Excellent civilian acts filled in for the USAF and USN, featuring demonstrations by regional museums such as the Historic Flight Foundation (Everett, WA), the Canadian Museum of Flight (Langley, BC), and the Heritage Flight Museum (Bellingham, WA). Newcomers to the show like Greg “Wired” Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker” and the 4CE aerobatic team featuring Matt Chapman and Jack Knutson also made their debuts. Veteran performers also returned to complete the flying lineup, with world aerobatics champion Rob Holland in his new MXS-RH, Manfred Radius’ soaring demo, Kent Pietsch providing comedic relief throughout the day, and Bill Braack in the Smoke-N-Thunder jet car.
Static display wise, the Canadian Forces boasted an excellent complement of examples of nearly all of their flying hardware, filling one of the two taxiways left empty in the absence of US aircraft. Civil aircraft also banded together in force to help fill in, including a Transport Canada SAR Dash 8, Cessna Corvalis TTX, Citation Mustang, and a very impressive Republic RC-3 Seabee that took home the Grand Champion award at the 2011 EAA Air Venture.
Interesting highlights of the show included the crew and cast members Mickey McBryan and Scott Blue from the Discovery Channel series Ice Pilots filming at and promoting the show. The two participated in a local charity event where they offered attendees the chance to drop them in a dunk tank at the Kids Zone. The Historic Flight Foundation also put on a raffle for rides in their North American B-25D Mitchell “Grumpy” and their recently restored DC-3 in Pan American colors. I was one such fortunate winner and enjoyed an exciting flight along the Fraser Valley with a half-dozen other passengers as a collection of T-6s flew in formation with us.
All in all, this year’s Abbotsford was a little less grand than previous shows because of the absence of the USAF. That being said, the CAF and local museums were fantastic substitutions that I expect will be back in years to come as crowd favorites. I’m looking forward to next year’s show that I believe will be one of the better I will have seen.
A huge thanks to the media coordinators and show organizers for the Abbotsford Airshow Society, Historic Flight Foundation for the flight opportunity, and the many volunteers that helped make this show happen.