Aviation News Journal
Aero Gatineau-Ottawa 2022
Texts and photography by Claude La Frenière
The National Capital of Canada’s Airshow
After two difficult years, Aero Gatineau-Ottawa has succeeded in returning its 5th edition, which took place from September 16 to 18, 2022, to normal. The 2020 edition had been cancelled due to the pandemic, and in 2021 the organizing committee succeeded in designing a ‘drive-in’ show without any static displays. This year, the show was bigger than ever, with a total of sixty aircraft present on the tarmac and in the sky.
After taking over from Wings over Gatineau in 2017, the organizers succeeded in making this airshow one of the most important aviation events in eastern Canada.
Find all the ingredients of a winning formula for a successful return
For the organizing committee, getting back to normal meant putting back in place all the ingredients of the winning recipe which ensured their past success. First, an impressive flight display programme had to be put together involving many vintage aircraft, modern military aircraft, and civilian aircraft.
Then it was necessary to assemble an exciting static display where spectators of all ages could get up close and personal with aircraft and meet exhibitors from the aviation world. Spectators could visit a Boeing 737 airliner, a Canadair CL-415 water bomber and sit in a CF-18 cockpit.
To the delight of all, the Vintage Wings of Canada hangars and grounds were open to the public allowing everyone to view the finest specimens of their collection up close, as well as to see some vintage aircraft being restored.
Finally, the layout of the site had to be designed to impress the spectators. At Gatineau Airport, the performers’ aircraft are parked so close to the crowd that people can see the aircraft, pilots and crews in detail from just a few metres away; nowhere else is the action so close.
Fun for photographers
Here spectators are in the center of the show; people are close to the aircraft that are participating in the show and the linear layout perpendicular to the runway offers an excellent unobstructed field of view where everyone can enjoy the show. Photography enthusiasts who purchased the photo-pit ticket ($100/day or $250/weekend in addition to practice day) got their money’s worth. They were on an elevated platform above the fences and the crowd with a perfect unobstructed view less than 15 metres from the hot zone exit to the taxiway. These enthusiasts not only had an elevated view of the runways, but also had the chance to see the aircraft coming and going from their performance from a distance of a few meters. The platform allowed them to be at the same height as the pilots in their taxiing aircraft.
The return of the public in large numbers
Aviation enthusiasts responded in large numbers to the call of the Aero Gatineau-Ottawa 2022 organizers, as the Gatineau Airport site was filled with visitors. Last year, the ‘drive-in’ formula limited the number of spectators to 5,000 for the entire weekend, but the 2022 edition attracted more than 12,000 visitors, 8,000 of which were on Saturday during the first day of the show, and only 4,000 on Sunday, due to bad weather. Even if at first glance we still seem far from the figures of the 2019 edition with its record attendance of nearly 20,000 people, the 2022 edition did well with 12,000 visitors for only two days of entertainment, and this despite the bad weather on Sunday.
The exclusive zone
As with every year, Aero Gatineau-Ottawa offered access to an exclusive zone, called the ‘Front Row Club’, to enjoy the best possible view along the runways. This is a privileged location with access to exclusive seating in the central airshow area, as well as a catered dinner with beverages and two complimentary drinks at the bar. The cost of $150 per day is very reasonable compared to other Canadian events, where access to the VIP tent costs up to $275 per day.
A new management of the ticketing service
This year, many people were surprised and annoyed by the new management of the ticket office. In the past, you could buy your ticket online in presale, but you could also buy your ticket at the entrance. This year, visitors could not buy their tickets onsite. At the access points of the site, there were only attendants with scanners to read the barcodes of printed or electronic tickets on the spectators’ cell phones.
This caused surprise among regulars arriving without a pre-purchased ticket, for whom the only option was to purchase their ticket online on their smartphones. This caused discontent among some people who had to turn back because they were not familiar with this technology.
The most imponderable factor of airshows is always the weather
The Aero Gatineau-Ottawa weekend had started well on Friday for the general practice under a beautiful sun, and after a first day of record-breaking shows on Saturday, the weather forced the organizers to cancel part of the activities on Sunday. However, Sunday afternoon's events were not cancelled due to rain, but rather due to low cloud cover that jeopardized the safety of the pilots. The people of Aero Gatineau-Ottawa are used to having airshows in the rain, and many aircraft can perform in the rain, but never without good visibility.
Aero Gatineau-Ottawa is in its fifth year without an accident and the organizing committee, composed of aviation professionals, coordinates its safety procedures with Transport Canada, the Gatineau and Ottawa police and emergency services, and the Canadian Army. All aircraft had to adhere to strict safety rules and perform aerobatic maneuvers only in a designated area above the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport ground away from spectators and buildings. Everything was done to ensure the safety of the performers, crews and spectators.
Some notable absentees
This year the list of performances was long and diverse with almost 30 acts, including high caliber guests, but one major absence was felt. The Snowbirds Demonstration Team from 431 Air Demonstration Squadron at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan were absent in Gatineau, having been grounded following an accident that occurred during take-off in British Columbia on August 2nd. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) ordered an operational pause of its fleet of venerable Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft on August 10 to conduct an operational airworthiness risk assessment. This pause was lifted on September 20 by the RCAF and it was only in the first days of October that the investigators’ report revealed that a poorly assembled oil filter was the cause of the aircraft’s engine failure, which led to an emergency landing. Finally, all their other shows scheduled for the rest of the 2022 season were cancelled.
An exceptionally rich flight programme
Aero Gatineau-Ottawa offered visitors a packed flight programme, even though the Snowbirds were absent. The guest list was of high caliber and included modern military aircraft such as an RCAF CF-18, USAF A-10C Thunderbolt II, and included the Canadian Armed Forces Skyhawks parachute team. Then, as we were in the Vintage Wings of Canada courtyard, we were treated to an important participation of vintage aircraft on the ground and in the air, complete with acrobatic performances by world-renowned civilian pilots.
When we saw the programme, which included 30 presentations, we wondered how they were going to manage to present everything in the allotted time. All operations were done in quarter turn and the schedule was respected to the minute, because the operations coordination team at Aero Gatineau-Ottawa, with Air Boss Jean-François Sills, Director of Ground Operations Denis Godin, Ground Logistics Manager Michel Côté and Air Marshall David McColl, is a well-oiled machine. All these people are professionals in the aviation world and all work voluntarily for the success of Aero Gatineau-Ottawa.
The PZL-104 Wilga is a strange-looking Polish airplane built in 1972 and was developed mainly for aerial sports. It is used for glider towing and parachuting, and has a reinforced and light structure with long landing gear legs and a cockpit allowing excellent visibility. Its pilot Patrick Cloutier showed us its takeoff and landing capabilities, as well as its maneuverability.
Bone Shaker Jet Truck
Rick ‘Hollywood’ Kopp with his ‘Bone Shaker’ jet truck, which was built on the basis of a real ‘International Transtar 4300’ truck from the 80s, came to shake the ground at Aero Gatineau-Ottawa during two different demonstrations. On its first appearance, it gave visually impressive solo demonstration with fire and smoke as it crossed the runway at a high speed of 475 km/h, requiring two drogue chutes to stop. The Bone Shaker is an 18,000-horsepower mechanical monster that reaches 36,000 pounds of thrust with afterburner, thanks to its General Electric J79 3-stage turbine engine, fine-tuned by crew chief Christine Palmer. This is the same jet engine that powered the F-104 Star Fighter and the F-4 Phantom. Later in the programme, he raced against Rick Volker, who approached at full speed with his SU-26M.
The Yellow Planes from the Vintage Wings of Canada collection
As per tradition in Gatineau, the four iconic planes of the RCAF pilot training programme of the 1940s were paraded through the sky. They are all painted in the standard yellow livery of all Canadian trainers of the era.
Fleet Finch II (C-FPFF) - The Finch was a mainstay of the RCAF before and during the early part of WWII, flying in the Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS) alongside the better known de Havilland Tiger Moth. The Finch was phased out of service starting in October 1944 and the last one was removed from the RCAF inventory in 1947.
Fairchild Cornell (CF-YQR) - In 1943, the Cornell found its way into elementary flight schools with an enclosed cockpit, improved heating system, equipment changes and a Ranger piston engine.
De Havilland Canada Chipmunk (CF-EGO) - The Chipmunk was the training aircraft that took over from the wartime models to teach basic flying skills to a new generation of pilots of all types during the Cold War.
North American Harvard MK IV (CF-ROA) - The Harvard is recognized as the greatest advanced trainer of World War II. Thanks to its fighter-like qualities and performance, 50,000 Allied pilots received their wings after qualifying on the Harvard at training bases in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
De Havilland DH-83C Fox Moth (C-FYPM), the Prince of Wales aircraft
Another gem in the Vintage Wings of Canada collection - this particular Fox Moth has perhaps the best pedigree of all. Its first owner in 1932 was Edward, Prince of Wales the man who would become the abdicated king. For a time, he was flown in this remarkable aircraft. Abandoned in 1960 in Fiji, its remains were brought to New Zealand and restored in 1993.
Mustang, Mustang and Mustang
The spectators were quite spoiled because, for the first time, three P-51D Mustang fighters made their Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 engines roar in the sky of Aero Gatineau-Ottawa.
‘Double Trouble II’ - P-51D Mustang (473874) flown by Mackenzie Cline is a retired RCAF P-51D that served with 416 Uplands Squadron from 1952 to 1957, before being retired after an accident and then restored. It has changed owners a few times over the years and is now owned by Peter Timmermans of Blenheim, Ontario.
‘Mad Max’ - TF-51-D Mustang (NL51MX) flown and owned by Louis Horschel, originally designated as a P-51D, it was built in 1944 and assigned to the 307th Fighter Squadron. Redesignated as an F-51-D because in 1948 the USAF introduced a new designation system, changing the ‘P’ for Pursuit to ‘F’ for Fighter. In the mid-1960s, it was converted to the TF-51D dual-seat Mustang Cavalier by Trans-Florida Aviation. Later in the mid-2000s, it was rebuilt again using a new fuselage and components from two other retired USAF Mustangs.
‘Little Witch’ - TF-51D Mustang (N51LW) flown and owned by Ariel Frank Luedi, entered service with 420 Squadron RCAF in 1950 as serial 9230. Demilitarized and sold for civilian use in 1958, the ‘Little Witch’ has changed owners sixteen times since 1958. She was completely rebuilt a first time and took to the air again in 1971 after a crash in California in 1969. She was completely restored a second time from 1998 to 2001 and was converted to the TF-51D dual control standard. In 2002, she underwent a cosmetic transformation and was repainted with the colors of the 352th fighter squadron and was renamed ‘Little Witch’. Then, in 2013, it arrived in the hands of its current owner.
Each of the three Mustangs gave a solo performance to demonstrate the impressive qualities of one of the best fighters of WWII. Two of them (Mad Max & Little Witch) did an acrobatic duo performance and later Mad Max came back for the heritage flight with the CF-188 of the RCAF.
On site, the spectators could admire a fourth Mustang; this one in the static display in the Vintage Wings hangars. The P-51 Mustang from the Potter collection is painted in the markings of the 442th Caribou Squadron, dedicated to two Robillard brothers, Larry and Roger, who both flew with 442 Squadron during WWII.
Westland Lysander IIIA
The magnificent Westland Lysander (C-FVZZ) with its 50-foot (15.24 m) wingspan, powered by an 870 HP Bristol Mercury Radial engine, and flying at a maximum speed of 212 mph, gave us a demonstration of its maneuverability at low speed and low altitude. The aircraft type was well known for its clandestine and dangerous role in WW II due to its superb short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities. The Lysanders used unprepared pastures and forest clearings in the dark of night to recover secret agents and saboteurs in occupied Europe.
The SkyHawks - the Canadian Armed Forces’ parachute team
The Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Demonstration Team, the SkyHawks, based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, was in Gatineau to showcase the high level of professionalism, teamwork and physical fitness that is required to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The SkyHawks team, easily recognizable by their red and white Canadian flag parachutes, created beautiful figures in the sky as they closed together and assembled to create formations. It requires incredible mastery and courage to defy death with every jump in two, three and four-man formations linked as one.
The SkyHawks jumped in two waves, a first for the ‘flag jumps’ where team members jumped with three large 450 square foot flags of Canada, USA and Quebec.
In the second wave of jumps the team practiced ‘parabatics’ or parachute aerobatics. The SkyHawks are known for their Canopy Relative Work (CRW) parachute performance in several signature formations. We've seen formations like the ‘bi-plane’ (2-stack), where jumpers do leg lock to fly their parachutes side by side, or the ‘tri-by-side’, where three jumpers form a stack of three, and the three parachutes turn into a horizontal circle. There is also the ‘three stack drag’ where three jumpers form a stack of three with one jumper at the bottom of the stack and reverses, flying upside downThere is also their ‘Canadian T’ formation where three jumpers form a stack of three and then turn into a T formation.
A CC-138 Twin Otter flew the skydivers for a total of three passes where it dropped the jumpers at a maximum altitude of 6,000 feet.
Mario Hamel and his Salto glider
Mario Hamel is a veteran pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force and was a member of the famous Snowbirds aerial demonstration team as ‘Snowbird 2’ for the 1994-95 seasons. Mario is a true airshow globetrotter, having flown in over 500 airshows over the past 27 years. Owner of several aerobatic aircraft, he came to give us a smooth demonstration in his elegant Salto glider.
Kyle Fowler and his Long-EZ aircraft
Kyle Fowler flew his 1986 Long EZ in the Gatineau sky with its unique look and bright yellow ‘delta duck wing’ plane. Although not capable of aggressive aerobatics, Kyle’s description of his demonstration is “high energy and glider type aerobatics”.
His unique-looking aircraft is a Rutan Model 61 Long-EZ, a homebuilt two-seater tandem aircraft designed by Burt Rutan’s Rutan Aircraft Factory. The aircraft is designed for fuel-efficient long-haul flights and can fly for over ten hours and up to 2,500 kilometers on 200 litres of fuel.
Northern Stars Aeroteam with their Pitts S-2B
Northern Stars Aeroteam is Canada’s newest aerobatic team, but its pilots are no strangers to Aero Gatineau-Ottawa spectators. It was formed in 2019 by Brent Handy, the team leader himself also a former member of the RCAF Snowbirds in 2012 and 2013, and Todd Farrell who was a member of the RCAF for 21 years. The team has become the only Canadian aerobatic team with three aircraft since Greg Hume-Powell joined the team in 2022, also a former Snowbirds member in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Between the three of them they have over 50 years of experience in the RCAF.
The team flies the Pitts Special S-2B biplane, a modern, stronger and more powerful version of a style of aircraft designed in the 1940s. In their routine, the team quickly transitions from precision maneuvers in tight formation, to more dynamic and abrupt solo maneuvers, and then quickly reassembled in tight formation. Their formation aerobatic routine combined discipline and precision with adrenaline-filled tumbles, torque rolls and loops that got the audience’s hearts racing.
Brent Handy and his beautiful Pitts S-2B Special in solo
Brent Handy, Team Leader of the Northern Stars Aeroteam, performed a solo demonstration in his PITTS Special S-2B in AERORECIP colors. His solo demonstration differed from the team demonstration by its high energy maneuvers and lower level aerobatics.
CT-155 Hawk, 4th Wing BFC Cold Lake
Two CT-155 Hawk dual-seat trainers from 419 Tactical Fighter Squadron based at 4 Wing/CFB Cold Lake, Alta., flew over the airport in close formation at low altitude in non-aerobatic maneuvers. 419 Training Squadron operates the CT-155 Hawk in the fighter training role. One of the two Hawks was painted in 2016 to commemorate the squadron's 75th anniversary with the standard dark green and dark earthy brown colors on top and black on the bottom of RAF Bomber Command aircraft during World War II. Funnily enough, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster MK X is also painted in 419 Squadron (RCAF) Bomber Command colors, serial number KB726, code VR-A.
RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team
Always a favorite of the Gatineau crowd, this year's CF-18 Demonstration Team aircraft was flown by Captain Jesse Haggart-Smith, callsign ‘Modem’, from 410th Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta. Enrolled at the Royal Military College of Canada at age 16, he became a fighter pilot in 2016 and has accumulated nearly 1,000 flight hours in military aircraft.
Captain Haggart-Smith demonstrated the maneuverability and combat capabilities of his CF-188 Hornet, a versatile fighter that can be used for air defense, air superiority, ground target attack, tactical support, training, aerobatic displays and aerospace test and evaluation. The Hornet is a fast, light and maneuverable aircraft. Its power, speed and tracking capabilities have made it a success in many military operations in Canada and abroad. That's why this year's paint scheme theme was “Fighter Operations at Home and Abroad”, rendered in the operational gray color scheme with a geometric pattern that referenced the wings of the CF-18’s namesake, the hornet.
CC-138 Twin Otter - RCAF
The CC-138 Twin Otter is used for transport and support operations in Canada’s north, as well as search and rescue missions. It is highly adaptable and well-suited to changing weather conditions and challenging terrain of northern Canada. The CC-138 Twin Otter is a short take-off and landing utility transport aircraft. It can be equipped with wheels or skis to land on ground, snow and ice. Over the weekend, it served as a transport aircraft and jump platform for the SkyHawks parachute team.
Trevor Rafferty's Pitts Model 12
Ontario's Trevor Rafferty gave us a breathtaking display in his Pitts Model 12, a traditional-looking biplane with 1930s Barn Stormers styling. With 400 horsepower and extremely light weight, it has as much performance as most modern factory-built aircraft. Trevor Rafferty builds his own aircraft, each one more complex and capable than the last. His current aircraft (number 5) being the largest and most impressive he has built to date. He is a successful international competitor and holds unrestricted low-level airshow exemption.
Hawker Hurricane MK XII
We were able to enjoy the beauty and sound of the 1,300 horsepower Packard Merlin 29 engine of a magnificent Hawker Hurricane, a British single-seat fighter of the 1930s-40s, designed by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service in the Royal Air Force (RAF). It inflicted 60% of the Luftwaffe's losses in the Battle of Britain and fought in all the major theaters of the Second World War.
Vintage Wings of Canada has honoured Flying Officer William Lidstone ‘Willie’ McKnight, a Canadian in the Royal Air Force and one of Canada's most notable WWII fighter pilots. They restored this Hawker Hurricane MK XII, ex-RCAF 5447, with the colors and markings worn by the Hurricane flown by McKnight of 242th (all-Canadian) Squadron of the RAF. By the end of production in July 1944, 14,487 Hurricanes had been delivered to the RAF.
Supermarine Spitfire MK IX (C-GYQQ)
Vintage Wings of Canada demonstrated the flight capabilities of its Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX, an exceptional aircraft built in 1945. This unique aircraft restored by Vintage Wings of Canada was awarded Grand Champion at the 2018 Oshkosh Convention and is painted in tribute to Arnold Roseland, a Canadian who flew the aircraft, identified as Y2-K of 442 Squadron, over 65 times before being shot down and killed in 1944 over France.
The role of this aircraft in the Battle of Britain became a symbol of a nation’s will to endure and triumph. This high performance, agile and fast fighter was highly appreciated by its pilots, most of whom were Canadian trained. It is widely considered the most beautiful aircraft of its time with its elliptical wings. More than 22,000 were built in nearly 30 variants.
The Spitfire and the Hurricane tear up the sky
One of the highlights of the day, after seeing two P51-D Mustangs flying in tight formation, the two best British fighters of WWII, the Spitfire MK IX and the Hurricane MK XII, combined their engines to make the skies of Gatineau resound with their low altitude maneuvers.
Antonov An-2P (C-GFBR)
Another loyal member of Aero Gatineau-Ottawa, the Antonov AN-2P, was built in Poland in Mielec in 1990. The AN-2 is one of the few sesquiplane aircraft (i.e., a biplane whose lower wing is half or less of the upper wing). Equipped with a nine-cylinder radial engine of 1,000 hp with a four-blade, variable pitch propeller, it has a cruising speed of 250 km/h, and a range of 900 km.
It is recognized as the largest single engine biplane in the world. It is loved for its robustness, easy maintenance, low operating costs and its extraordinary capacity to fly at low speed and to carry out take-offs and landings in short distances (STOL). This An-2P (Passazhirskiy) version is a fully civilian variant, capable of carrying up to twelve passengers or 1,240 kg of cargo.
Lockheed CT-133 Silver Star (N133CN)
One of the most beautiful aircraft to fly in Gatineau's skies for a long time was this magnificent Canadair CT-133 Silver Star which was part of the RCAF fleet, with the serial number 2105. It was flown by Bill Calberson, a veteran military and civilian pilot retired since 2016, and in love with restoring and flying classic military aircraft. He is qualified on the L-29, MiG-15, MiG-17, T-33 and B-17.
The Canadair CT-133 Silver Star is a Canadian copy of the American Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, built under license by Canadair in Montreal in 1953, using a Rolls-Royce Nene 10 (Turbo-jet) engine with a thrust of 12,400 lbs. In service in Canada since 1948, the fleet was officially retired in 2001, with the exception of four examples that continued to fly until 2005 at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) in Cold Lake, Alberta. Between 1948 and 1959 a total of 6,557 American and 656 Canadian models were built.
In 2008 it was restored by the Jet Aircraft Museum in London, Ontario and shipped to its current base in Mobile, Alabama, and was later repainted to proudly display its Canadian heritage in the colors of the 414 Black Knights Combat Support Squadron, with the beautiful red maple leaf painted on the aircraft's black belly. Following a thorough restoration by Red Star Aero Services, it won the Best Jet Restoration award at EAA Air Venture in Oshkosh in 2019.
CL-415 Water Bomber - Quebec Government Aerial Service (SAG)
One of the beautiful appearances of the weekend was the presence of the CL-415 Super Scooper water bomber of the Quebec Government Aerial Service (SAG). The CL-415 is an amphibious water bomber that was manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace (formerly Canadair), and then by Viking Air since 2016. It is the main aircraft specialized in fighting forest fires in Quebec, France and many countries around the world.
Spectators were able to see it up close it on the Saturday. It was supposed to demonstrate its power and maneuverability at low altitude with a drop of 6,140 liters of water from its tanks at the edge of the runway during the Sunday show, which was unfortunately cancelled due to weather conditions.
Rick Volker and his Sukhoi SU-26M
Rick Volker is a member of the International Aerobatic Club and is classified in the unlimited category, with a surface exemption allowing him to perform unlimited aerobatic maneuvers and to fly close to the ground with death-defying acrobatics. The routine that he flew with his Sukhoi SU-26M, demonstrated a complete mastery of the flight capacity of his aircraft. He pushed the limits by alternating between extreme and dangerous maneuvers, and others of great finesse. When you meet Rick, you notice his excellent physical condition, which is necessary for him to succeed in his acrobatic maneuvers at the limits of endurance, that subject his body to G forces ranging from plus 11 G to minus 9 G. With the Sukhoi SU-26M, it is the pilot who becomes the limiting factor, as the pilot will fail before the aircraft.
A-10C Thunderbolt II
The most anticipated moment of the day was of course the display by the USAF A-10C Thunderbolt II demonstration team. The Major Haden ‘Gator’ Fullam of the 354th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, was the pilot and the team commander. He is a seasoned instructor pilot with more than 2,000 hours of flight time, including 541 combat hours. Maj. Fullam has flown combat missions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Major Fullam gave us a very convincing demonstration of the maneuverability of his aircraft by simulating attack passes, accentuated by recordings of the sound of his gun in the demonstration soundtrack.
CH-146 Griffon from 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron (Tigers)
Although not part of the official show, on Thursday when the performers arrived, we had a courtesy visit from a CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron (TIGERS) of 8 Wing, from the nearby RCAF base in Trenton, Ontario.
Aero Gatineau-Ottawa did not miss its opportunity to return to normalcy. It presented a full-scale show coordinated on the fly thanks to its efficient operational and logistical management team. The public was there in great numbers and no one would have been disappointed if it hadn’t been for the weather that came and spoiled the last day. We are already looking forward to the 6th edition next year.