Airshow London’s 2017 Arrival Day
Airshow London has become a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a solid, medium-sized air show that focuses on military aircraft both in the air and on the ground. Not overcrowded by hundreds of thousands of spectators, the show’s venue still attracts a big crowd and plenty of aircraft… isn’t that what an air show is all about? The Ontario, Canada-based show had a storied history in the 1980s and 1990s as a premiere North American military aviation show, but took a rather lengthy hiatus from the early 2000s through 2016. In the two years since its reincarnation, Airshow London has definitely returned to historic proportions of crowds and attractions. I was able to take in Friday’s arrivals and practices with a Photo Pass this year; the access with this admission allows one to see almost all of the air show even before it happens over the weekend.
Keeping with the old tradition, the show offered great photographic access within this year’s Photo Pit. The Photo Pass for the Friday of airshow weekend included an enclosure close to the runway and taxiways, access beginning at 9AM through 4PM to photograph arriving aircraft and practicing participants, and entrance to the Hour of Power – the Friday evening air show that ran from 4PM through 8PM too. There was even ice cold water for the Photo Pass participants! Here’s a short review:
In 2017, the show celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, and the show producers put together an “A” list of flying and static military aircraft. Even when a string of hurricanes pulled more than a couple of pre-confirmed participants away (US Coast Guard helicopters, and USAF and RCAF transports among them), the turnout of more than three dozen aircraft treated the crowd with the exciting sights and sounds of fast jets and hulking transports, mixed with a few warbirds’ roars too.
Lockheed-Martin was the Presenting Sponsor, and drew a pair of Air Force F-35As which were part of the Air Force Heritage Flight display, as well as a Navy VFA-101 F-35C too. The U.S.A.F.’s Heritage Flight paired an F-35A with the P-51D Mustang “Bald Eagle”, flown by General Tommy Williams. The Canadian Forces’ specially painted Confederation Hornet was there, and flew another heritage-based formation with a Vampire flown by Jerry Conley. The Vampire was Canada’s first jet fighter…
The Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team jumped a few times on Friday, out of a civilian Shorts Skyvan. Several inbound aircraft, not part of the flying display, performed practice approaches and “went around” for another practice approach; the F-15C Eagles of the Louisiana ANG were loud and most accommodating for the photographers in the Pit! The Navy E-6B Mercury was another highly visible arrival that made multiple approaches. The Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A that arrived in the morning did one overhead pass before landing too. And a highlight for the day (one of many) was the departure of a pair of Canadian Hornets, which did some air-to-air training with a trio of Ohio ANG F-16s… a five-ship formation returned to London and broke overhead, then the three Toledo-based fighters and the pair of Canadian Hornets proceeded to do multiple overshoots too!
Other afternoon activity included Randy Ball’s routine in the sole flying MiG-17PF in the world. Jerry Conley took the twin-seat Vampire out for a routine too. Canadian Pete McLeod did his aerobatic show in the Red Bull Zivco Edge 540; at other times he races in the Red Bull Air Race circuit. Both the Canadian CF-18 and the US Navy’s F-18F Super Hornet displays were loud and proud too. One can see almost all of the weekend’s flying displays on Friday afternoon, so it really becomes a bonus show day.
Then the Hour of Power began with both heritage formations, a Super Hornet demo, the RCAF Snowbirds’ full performance, and a RCAF C-17 departure with relief supplies for Caribbean hurricane survivors, with a few more arrivals that fit in between acts. Randy Ball flew the MiG-17 again, and finally the RCAF Hornet demo closed the show as nightfall occurred. The surprise at the end was the landing of the Hornet… purposely dragging its’ tail hook as it landed, a stream of sparks trailed it down the runway! Then, as the thousands of spectators filed out, more jets and turboprops arrived in complete darkness.
What was surprising was that during the Friday arrival day in the Photo Pit, those awaiting military aircraft arrivals can witness a wide variety of great civilian airplanes too. London has a modest airline presence with Air Canada and WestJet regional airliners, mainly Dash 8s and Q400s as well as a great WestJet B-737-600 flight. Diamond Aircraft has a production facility at the south end of the airport, and there is a fair amount of private and corporately-owned traffic coming through too.
All-in-all, it was a great day to be around an airport and airplanes! Even better, it offered a chance to meet people with a common passion of aviation and photography too. Old friendships were rekindled, new friendships were forged too. For two years in a row now, the weather cooperated fully, and a beautiful sunset was enjoyed during the Hour of Power.
As of the writing of this article, the dates of the 2018 Airshow London weekend have not been announced. But, you can check in to see the 2017 ticket arrangements on the show’s web site, as well as keeping up on announcements about next year at: http://airshowlondon.com/ The Photo Pit was almost full on Friday, and sold out on Saturday this year, so one can bet that the word is out that this is a great opportunity for photographers. The countdown till next year’s show has already begun for me, and we don’t even know the dates yet!