And when the smoke cleared there was an airshow.

The 2018 Edmonton Airshow took flight at the Villeneuve Airport 18 & 19th August after dense smoke from British Columbia forest fires that had blanketed the Edmonton area for days cleared  revealing brilliant blue skies and light winds, ideal conditions for high flying aerobatics displays.

Villeneuve Airport’s Runway 34 is 1000 meters long and I joined a steady trickle of airshow  attendees ambling down the tarmac,

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A number of civilian and military aircraft were on hand for visitors to walk through and one I toured is a United States Air Force (USAF) HC-130 J Hercules based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska. This latest variation of the venerable Hercules is deployed for border patrol and maritime reconnaissance and rescue.

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Flooded with light the Hercules cockpit is larger than the handful of civilian airliner cockpits I’ve visited over the years.  A crew of seven including two pilots flies this warbird.

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The RCAF was represented with its navy blue De Havilland Canada CT 142 Dash 8 , a military conversion of the popular twin turboprop Dash-8 civilian airliner that has carried countless millions of passengers since it introduction in the mid 1980’s.  The air frame looks like a regular Dash 8 but the bulbous nose seemed out of place until an RCAF officer on hand explained that was were the large radar system was housed.  This aircraft is flown by 402 “City of Winnipeg” squadron in an air navigation training role for both Canadian and Commonwealth flyers.

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A vivid orange and green paint scheme drew everyone to the vintage Canso PBY-5A  which rolled off the assembly line in 1943 as a patrol bomber during WWII before spending years in a civilian role as a water bomber. The Fairview Aircraft restoration Society (FARS) was founded to restore and preserve this flying piece of Canadian aviation history for future generations and there’s more on their mission on their website Save The Canso.

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Other aircraft on the ground available for a closer look were the Edmonton Police Service’s Air One, an  Airbus H-125  helicopter the service took delivery of in recent months, a CT-156 Harvard II trainer, and a CH-146 Griffon helicopter of the RCAF.

A food truck village is on hand to help the hungry and among the dozen vendors was Jackie O’s Sweet Treats whose mini donuts are as notable as the super clean lines and retro look of the food truck.

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After touring the aircraft on the ground it was time to watch the stars of the airshow, the aerobatic performers.

Gary Rower has logged more than 20,000 hours flying and rolled out his  vintage 1942 PT-17 Stearman biplane that began its life as a basic trainer for the U.S. Army Air Corps before undergoing a completed restoration in 1973.  The sound of the old radial engine taking off and going through its aerobatic routine was for me the highlight of the show.


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Buck Roetman’s purpose-built Christen Eagle aerobatic biplane seems half the size of the old Stearman and a very different engine sound.


video by author

After flying separate routines the two biplanes combined for a duet at the end of the afternoon airshow and it was quite a sight with Roetman’s smaller and more nimble aircraft charting a different course but winding up in formation with Rower’s warbird. After the tandem ballet in the sky both biplanes taxied in and parked beneath the Villeneuve Airport control tower.

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A rare female aerobatic pilot Jacquie “B” Warda took to the skies with her 1986 Pitts Special named “The Red Eagle”.

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While part of a flying family Warda didn’t decide to become a pilot until age 32 and left a top job in the corporate world to become an aerobatic pilot at age 50.

Raised on a farm near Westlock Barry Pendrak took a spin in his home built Super Skybolt. Pendrak began his flying career as a B25 Mitchell water bomber pilot in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Closing the airshow the Lockheed T-33 “Acemaker” lifted off from Edmonton International Airport and did several passes at almost 600 miles per hour, close to triple the speed of some of the airshow aircraft.  The USAF’s first operational jet was piloted by Gregory “Wired” Colyer who had to slow his jet to “race” a Ferrari down the 1,500 meter main runway but even with a 200-MPH supercar it was no contest.

A key theme of the airshow was encouraging young flyers to pursue their flight dreams as virtually all of the pilots performing got hooked on flying at a very early age. Given the looming global shortage of pilots –almost 800,000 pilots are needed by 2037 to meet growing demand according to this article — the need for an increased number of recruits is more acute than ever so event organizers were reinforcing that message throughout the afternoon.

Airshow general admission was only $30 but for those wanting a more premium experience upgraded admission packages with exclusive parking and shaded lounges are also available for a premium price.

With near ideal weather and scores of eye candy for aviation buffs like myself I came away wondering why I hadn’t turned out for one of the previous Edmonton Airshows but resolved to not miss the next.