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The Canadian International Air Show 2021 in TorontoText and photography by Claude La FrenièreA show presented during a period of sanitary restrictions for COVID 19 reaches an audience beyond all expectationsThe Canadian International Air Show (CIAS) is the third major air event in Canada every year. It was finally back in 2021 to celebrate its 72nd anniversary, after being cancelled in 2020 due to the global pandemic.
Always held during the three-day long Labour Day weekend in Canada, it was presented in an adapted and reduced format over two days only, on September 4 and 5. Due to the Province of Ontario's enforcement of health restrictions and guidelines for Covid-19, the CIAS was not allowed its traditional exclusive festive zone in Marilyn Bell Park, west of Ontario Place with reserved seating and narration of the show over loudspeakers.
This year the show was free to all Canadians as a thank you for the sacrifices made over the past eighteen months. Always presented over Lake Ontario, the CIAS could be enjoyed everywhere from several linear parks along fourteen kilometers of the lakefront. This vast public waterfront space allowed spectators to safely respect the physical distance, said Colleen McCourt, Manager of Public Affairs & Media Relations for CIAS.
It was a well-attended event beyond the expectations of the organizers, as crowd estimates provided by city officials indicate that more than 500,000 people saw the show each day. Organizers had never seen so many boats (thousands) on the lake outside the safety box, according to McCourt. Spectators were able to follow the presentations from their personal devices, while keeping their physical distance, thanks to the show's narration broadcasted continuously on a local radio station, on social networks and on the show's website www.cias.org. Official CIAS figures indicate that for the live streaming alone, over 200,000 people were connected each day. It took a tremendous team effort to achieve these results, despite health restrictions, and make this year's show possible. Primary sponsor Lockheed Martin, the Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto were instrumental in making the show a success. Protests and local opposition
Although many were looking forward to the CIAS, the air show was unpopular with some nearby residents who objected to the noise created by the planes participating in the show, and others who objected to the military participation. Some find it disturbing and disrespectful of vulnerable groups, such as those who have been involved in the war or who have had to experience it. Complaints about the show are numerous on social media every year, not to mention that there is also concern for the environment, given all the recent discussions of global climate change.
An air show without any static aircraft displays
At the CIAS there is no static display, because most of the demonstration aircraft are based at Toronto's Pearson Airport, 15 km from the air show site. Normally there is a party zone on the lake front with a number of booths selling souvenirs and food, as well as tents that host meet-and-greet sessions with the pilots in VIP areas, but all of this was cancelled this year because of the COVID 19 restrictions. A reduced but still impressive list of live demonstrations
Despite the conditions imposed by the pandemic, organizers of the CIAS managed to present a list of LIVE demonstrations that was still impressive, but a little shorter than those of previous years, with nine performers on Saturday and ten performers on Sunday, compared with twelve to thirteen performers per day the previous years. The show still managed to delight spectators who gathered along Lake Ontario.
A challenge to photographers
As presented over Lake Ontario, the CIAS has always been difficult to photograph. Spectators are usually far from the action, mostly around 1 km and more from the shore, and this forces the use of long lenses. In addition, the orientation of the site forces photographers to photograph facing the sun. On Saturday it was quite hot under a blazing sun, which generated considerable humidity in the air above the lake, while backlighting the aircraft. As a result, photographers were able to capture rainbows in vapours generated by the jets. ORNGE Air Ambulance's Leonardo AgustaWestland Aw-139
ORNGE Air Ambulance Company, with aircraft at twelve bases in Ontario, demonstrated the maneuverability and capabilities of its Leonardo AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters in their new livery, which incorporates the company's distinctive orange with heritage blue and white.
The AW139 is the most successful global helicopter programme of the past fifteen years. With orders covering more than 280 operators in more than 70 countries to date, it has already sold more than 1,150 units. Surprisingly powerful while its rivals climb at 300 to 400 feet per minute, the AW139 can climb at more than 2,000 feet per minute, thanks to two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C engines providing a total of 1,700 shp, its five-blade rotor and its primary and secondary transmissions from Westland GKN and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It was one of the first helicopters to receive full ice protection certification, which allows the helicopter to fly in known icing conditions, giving it unprecedented all-weather capability.
Most aircraft are equipped with a four-axis autopilot to achieve higher levels of automation and safety and to use advanced features, such as automatic hovering and the cockpit can be compatible with night vision goggles. The AW139 has the largest cabin in its class for up to 14 passengers, or four litters and accompanying medics, with an additional cargo compartment used to store equipment to keep the main cabin clear. RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team
CF-18 pilot Captain Daniel “Delouse” Deluce provided an impressive demonstration of his aircraft’s capabilities with great mastery. Captain Deluce comes from a family of Canadian aviators. His grandfather Stan Deluce was a Hurricane pilot during the Second World War, and his father Joe Deluce was a professional pilot for forty years. He began flying at a very young age with his father, obtaining his private pilot's license at 16 and his commercial civil pilot's license with multi-engine and instrument ratings in 2006.
Deluce has been a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force since 2010. He joined 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta and 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron based at 4 Wing Cold Lake as a tactical instructor pilot. After the demonstration season, he will return to his current position as an instructor at 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, which he has held since 2018, where he teaches aspiring Canadian fighter pilots.
Each year, the official team theme is symbolized in the special paint scheme applied to the aircraft. This year’s theme is “Strong at Home”, commemorating the commitment to operations involving the Canadian Armed Forces on Canadian soil, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Snowbirds.
An eagle's head, which represents alertness, agility, readiness and speed, adorns the tail. The eagle's feathers are represented by eight leaves that symbolize eight of the nine Snowbirds, with the ninth Snowbird being the missing man painted on the underside of the aircraft to honour the Canadians who lost their lives this year, including Snowbird Captain Jennifer Casey. A large maple leaf painted on the inside of the tail with the names of the 12 national operations of the Royal Canadian Air Force pays tribute to the country it has proudly served for 97 years.
Unfortunately, spectators in Toronto did not get to enjoy the aircraft's beautiful paint scheme as technical problems grounded the aircraft all weekend, and Capt. Deluce used two replacement CF-18s for his demonstrations. RCAF (Lockheed Martin) CC-130J Super-Hercules
Over the weekend, we saw a CC-130J Super-Hercules from 436 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton demonstrate its low-level maneuverability capabilities.
The Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super-Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft and is a complete upgrade of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with new Rolls-Royce Allison AE 2100 D3 engines and 6-blade composite scimitar propellers, and a new cockpit with state-of-the-art digital avionics. The CC-130J's crew consists of two pilots and a loadmaster. A navigator and flight engineer are no longer required.
Compared to its predecessors, the CC-130E and H, the J model has a 40 percent longer range (6,850 km), a 21 percent higher top speed (660 km/h / 356 kts) and a 41 percent shorter takeoff distance. As of July 2021, 450 aircraft have been delivered to 22 countries, including 17 to Canada.
The CC-130J Super-Hercules is used by Canada for a variety of missions, such as troop transport, tactical airlift and aircrew training. It can land in inhospitable environments and drop heavy loads of equipment, supplies and personnel, and can take off from unpaved runways and carry up to 92 paratroopers (fully equipped) or 128 passengers. RCAF CT-156 Harvard II
The CT-156 Harvard II is a two-seat, single-engine aircraft used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a trainer aircraft for the NATO Phase II Flying Training Programme in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
It is a derivative of the Pilatus PC-9, extensively modified by Beechcraft to provide the Canadian military with an intermediate training aircraft. The Harvard II is nearly identical to the American T-6A model and to USAF and USN standards in terms of avionics, fully pressurized cockpit configuration and performance tailored for the Canadian Forces.
This aircraft is particularly suited to help new pilots transition from basic flight training to jet training with its maximum speed of 575 km/h / 310 kts and range of 835 km. With dual controls, instructors teach student pilots to fly safely while having the ability to immediately take control of the aircraft if the student pilot makes a mistake. Its performance, combined with its modern interior cockpit layout and good maneuverability, makes it an ideal stepping stone to advanced training phases. RCAF CH-146 Griffon 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron (SAR)
A CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 424 Transport Squadron came directly from Canadian Forces Base 8 Wing in Trenton. 424 Squadron performs its search and rescue (SAR) duties using CH-146 Griffon helicopters and CC-130H Hercules aircraft. The pilot demonstrated stability and maneuverability and the aircraft performed a simulated rescue of a person in distress in the waters of Lake Ontario.
The squadron has a reserve crew for each aircraft type (Griffon and Hercules) ready to respond to distress calls from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton. Within the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Griffon's primary role is the tactical transport of troops and equipment. It is also used for search and rescue (SAR) missions, surveillance and reconnaissance, army training, casualty evacuation and counter-drug operations with Canadian police forces. U.S. Air Force F-35a Lightning II Demonstration Team, HILL AFB
A highlight of the show was the performance of the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team from Hill AFB, Utah. At the controls was Major Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, a highly experienced fighter pilot with over 800 hours of flight time and qualified as an instructor pilot on the F-22A Raptor and F-35A Lightning II. This was the first time Toronto aviation enthusiasts were offered the chance to see the maneuvers of the F-35A, a fifth-generation multi-role, agile, versatile, high performance, 9G capable fighter that combines stealth with unprecedented situational awareness for pilots.
Although this aircraft is still on the short list to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fleet, there are rumours that it will be a two-way fight between the Boeing Block III Super Hornet and Saab's Gripen E. Given that many allied countries have massively reduced their orders for the F-35-A (even the USAF by 40%) and that the number of Canadian aircraft to be ordered has risen from 65 to 88 fighters, the practical reality is that the F-35-A is no longer affordable for Canada.
Lockheed Martin, which was the main sponsor of the 2021 CIAS, distributed a large quantity of red caps and water bottles for children with the F-35A logo and the Canadian flag throughout the weekend. Gordon Price and his Yak-50
Gordon Price, now 80 years old, is a legend in the Canadian aviation world. A former CF-104 Starfighter pilot, he has been performing in air shows since 1967. He took a 24-year sabbatical from aerobatic flying where he was an airline pilot on Boeing 747s and returned to aerobatics in 2012.
He pilots the first prototype of the Yak 50 built at the Yakovlev Design Bureau in 1972 in Moscow, Russia. In 2017, Gordon installed a new Vendenyev M-14PF engine with 435 HP, giving the aircraft incredible vertical performance. This is the only Yak 50 registered in Canada. It is identified with the name of an establishment he owns, the Dam Pub, in Thornbury, Ontario. Gordon has been kicking it around doing low altitude, high energy 7G maneuvers with smoke. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s PBY-5A Canso/Catalina
We had the opportunity to see a majestic Consolidated PBY-5A Canso in flight. It is owned by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and was built in 1944 by Canadian Vickers in Montreal. It served in the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1961 under registration RCAF 11084 and continued to operate commercially until 1995, when it was acquired by the museum.
Now completely restored and painted in the colours and markings of WW2 RCAF Squadron 162. This beautiful aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp engines, providing 1,200 hp each. It is dedicated to Lt. David Hornell, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The PBY-5A Canso served with eleven Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons during the Second World War. They were used for coastal patrols, convoy protection and submarine hunting. RCAF Squadron 162, while stationed in Iceland and Scotland in 1944, was responsible for the sinking of six German submarines. After the Second World War, Cansos served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in photographic reconnaissance and search and rescue roles until their final retirement in November 1962. Scott “Scooter” Yoak P-51D Quick Silver “The Resurrected Veteran”
Scott “Scooter” Yoak is an American P-51 demonstration pilot with a current total of more than 6,500 flight hours, including more than 1,000 in P-51s. The P-51D Quick Silver, also known as “The Resurrected Veteran”, is a tribute to the United States armed forces. The father-son team, Bill and Scott Yoak of West Virginia, spent thirteen years meticulously restoring the P-51D Mustang.
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American-built, single-seat, long-range fighter aircraft, used primarily during World War II as tactical reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bombers. In late 1943, the P-51B was used by the U.S. Air Force as a bomber escort in air raids over Germany and as a fighter-bomber by Allied forces. In Canada, three Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons (No. 400, No. 414 and No. 430) used Mustangs for reconnaissance and two others squadrons (No. 441 and No. 442) for long-range escort during World War II. Mustangs remained in service in Canada after the war until 1961. 431th Air Demonstration Squadron Snowbirds
As is often the case, the last part of the show was reserved for the much-anticipated Snowbirds of 431th Air Demonstration Squadron. This year, the Snowbirds have a special livery with gold tones to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
The Snowbirds still fly Canadair CT-114 Tutors, 60-year-old aircraft capable of much slower speeds than modern jets. Their precision and slower speed give their maneuvers a gracefulness that is often compared to an acrobatic ballet. After a one-year hiatus, following the tragic accident that claimed the life of Captain Jennifer Casey last year, the squadron's activities resumed in 2021. The Snowbirds were as impressive as expected with tight formations in graceful and precise maneuvers. For 2021, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds painted a gold stripe on its aircraft to mark their golden 50th anniversary and to pay a tribute to the “Golden Centennaires”, the Snowbirds’ precursors as the Canadian Forces’ aerobatic team.
The show team flies eleven CT-114 Tutors: nine for aerobatic performances, including two solo aircraft, and two spares. Around eighty Canadian Forces members work full-time with the squadron; 24 are part of the show team that travels during the show season. Conclusion
CIAS 2021 was a great success despite the concerns of organizers. The weekend was attended by an estimated 1 million people, an amazing crowd despite health restrictions. The perfect and unseasonably warm weather surely contributed to the success of the event, and it was felt that people needed to get out and gather outside on the 14 km of lakefront.
McCourt told us that they we were extremely happy with their attendance and with the success of the live stream. Covid- 19 did not dampen the enthusiasm or the excitement for the event and we are looking forward to 2022. It will be even bigger and better.
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