It was a blustery Saturday for the first day of the Edmonton Airshow, but that didn’t impact the aerobatics in the sky or the crowds on the ground.
Thousands of people, from plane experts to young tots getting their first view of a gliding plane up close, bound on Villeneuve Airport for the airshow featuring the famous Canadian Forces Snowbirds — stopping in Edmonton for the first time in over 15 years as part of Canada 150 celebrations.
It was a frantic beginning to the event, executive producer Dean Heuman said, with heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 90 km/h Friday night knocking down fencing and needing repair before the gates opened Saturday morning.
Before the show started, Heuman said the high winds Saturday wouldn’t impact the acts, but as they increased in the early afternoon the parachuting SkyHawks had to pull back from jumping out of the plane for safety concerns.
But the wind died down and the rest of the acts wowed the crowd — and also caused some racing hearts — with daring tricks. One performance focused on things going wrong in flight to highlight the safety of aviation in a comedy routine by Kent Pietsch featuring wings and tires falling off in the sky.
A major emphasis of the event is on youth as Heuman said they are trying to encourage the next generation to think about aviation is a potential career.
“This is an industry that already is feeling old,” he said. “That in 10 years there will not be enough pilots, mechanics and people who service planes to carry the number of flights we have now.”
To educate youth, the show invites the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as well as flight schools to show what they do and provide recruitment information — as well as the chance to meet the airshow pilots after their daring rides in the sky.
Members from the Alberta air cadet program were in attendance allowing kids to see a glider plane up close and even take a seat in one to touch the controls and learn what they do.
The program hopes to expose youth between the ages of 12-19 to the world of aviation, Cpt. Andrew McLellan said.
Isabelle, 5, and Olivia Weller, 3, were instantly drawn to the big yellow two-seater plane and jumped at the chance to take a seat inside.
Visiting from British Columbia, their father Tony Weller said he works in the aviation industry which is the main reason for why they decided to go to the airshow.
He said — although a little too early to tell if aviation if the career choice for them — his girls always talk about how cool it is and always point out planes and helicopters in the sky.
In the last couple of years, Heuman said recruitment and interest as a result of the show has gone up with the air cadets recruiting 160 new members last year alone, where they usually get about 75.
“It’s working. People are seeing that there’s an opportunity and they’re getting excited about aviation. Who can ask for more than that?” he said.