Airshow London’s Sky Drive 2021
The “Sky Drive” format, introduced by Airshow London in 2020, returned for another successful show on August 27-29, 2021. In 2020, when most of the airshows were canceled, those that were held typically featured a drive-in style with built-in social distancing. Early in the planning for the 2021 show, Airshow London again committed to the Sky Drive format. That decision was a sound one because despite rising Covid infections, the show would go on and it was shaping up to be another good one. I wanted to go! The big question for me was if an American could cross the border to Canada.
The border was closed for more than a year and as preparations were being made to open it, the finish line was moved a number of times. Finally, in early August, Canada opened the border to Vaccinated Americans for leisure travel, although there were a few more caveats. Also required, a negative Covid Test within 72 hours of travel and a phone application called, ArriveCan which recorded all this data including the timeframe you planned to cross the border. Fortunately, all of my paperwork was in order and my inspector happened to be an airshow fan. I do admit to some nervousness until my test came back in the time allotted.
I always attend this show in the same fashion. Two days of Photopit on Friday and Saturday before returning to the United States. The Pit was in a different location than the norm, at Airshow Right. My only complaint was that the speakers were not extended down to the Photopit. The show had it all in the weather department but at least it was warm. I always bring extra layers to London. Lessons learned. We experienced clouds, rain, brilliant sunshine, dusk and darkness. Also, London International Airport remains open between performances so commercial traffic such as Westjet, Air Canada and ORNGE Medical Helicopters come and go.
The show headliners were the U.S Navy’s Blue Angels. This was my second chance to see them in the new Super Hornets as well as the return of Fat Albert to demonstrations. Fat Albert is now a C-130J, formerly of the Royal Air Force. Although not part of Friday’s airshow, the Blue Angels held a full scale practice in light rain.
The Friday evening show is called “The Hour of Airpower”. A group of aircraft to include static displays are scheduled to arrive in the late afternoon to London’s Runway 15/33 under glorious sunshine when conditions are right. It took awhile for the clouds to clear but we got to those sunny skies. Performers included Canada’s own CF-18s in a two-ship tactical demonstration, the CF-18 Demonstration Team, the CC-130J and the Snowbirds.
Civilian acts included the Northern Stars Aerobatic Team, flying two Pitts S2s. One of them also performed as a solo act. The Hometown Team of Diamond Aircraft flew a dissimilar routine with a single-engined DA-50 and what I believe to be a twin-engined DA-62, both built here in London.
The U.S. Coast Guard flew an MH-65 Dauphin Helicopter rescue simulation and an EADS HC-144 Ocean Sentry made flybys. The U.S. Navy brought in two F/A-18E Super Hornets from VFA 37, “The Raging Bulls” for static display, the P-8 Poseiden made a few passes before landing and the E-2 Hawkeye performed.
The U.S Air Force was scheduled to fly the C-17 Demonstration Team , the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, and some F-15s out of Louisiana, all of which canceled for various reasons. What did show, and the main motivation for my visit, was two B-1B Lancers on Friday evening. It did not materialize as I imagined it but was still welcome and very cool as they pulled away in afterburner after their single pass.
The CF-18 Demonstration Team closed out the Friday show with a heavy afterburner routine. Photographing it is difficult but the takeoff was very close to our location and it was wonderful.
On Saturday, weather was generally good with a few clouds. A number of the same acts performed again but some from Friday were static arrivals that remain on the ground until Sunday. Still others perform a flyby that may only be on Saturday. One such flyby was the E-8 Sentry AWACS. I almost missed it not paying attention. The old, smoky engines and the sound warmed my AvGeek heart.
Some exceptions were a single CF-18 tactical demonstration rather than two because the Demonstration Team jet was down on maintenance and they needed the other one. The Poseiden had a problem and could not launch. A C-2 Greyhound was supposed to fly with the E-2 Hawkeye but that never happened. We also never saw the KC-135, CC150 Polaris, CT-156 Harvard II or the refueling demonstration with the CC-130T and two CF-18s. I do not know if that changed on Sunday.
Although conditions were mostly sunny all day, as the Blue Angels were to begin, a stubborn, large cloud placed itself in front of the sun for the entire routine.
Despite the missing acts and the inopportune weather, it was great to be back at Airshow London. I love the format employed here with simple flybys allowing for more aircraft to be seen in the air. I also want to commend Canada because after a late rollout, the country had achieved an 80% Covid-19 vaccination rate. At the time of this writing, the United States is still not allowing Canadian Citizens across the border as they allowed me. For that, I apologize to all my friends in Canada and thank them for their hospitality toward me and the Ketchup Potato Chips.