The Canadian Forces Snowbirds Demonstration Team. Photo by Scott Kitching, Blackburn News.

Airshow London draws big crowds

Thousands of aviation enthusiasts braved the cool, windy weather over the weekend to see dozens of military aircraft up close and have their pictures taken with real fighter pilots at Airshow London.

The air spectacle wrapped up Sunday and saw roughly 30,000 people flock to the London International Airport over its three day run. While attendance was down slightly from last year’s show, organizers are very happy with the turnout.

“Sunday’s cold weather played a part in some of our numbers, but all in all we were pleased and we are ready to do this again,” said Dave De Kelver, executive director of Airshow London. “We had a lot of diehard fans out and by giving free admission to kids 12 and under we saw more families this year. We were really pleased about that.”

Airshow London, now in its third year, featured over 70 aircraft on the ground and in the air. There were performances by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Demonstration Team, the CF-18 Demonstration Team led by Captain Stefan Porteous, the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, and the North American F-86 Sabre.

“The aircrews were thrilled with the enthusiasm of the crowds and the hospitality of the London community,” said De Kelver.

New to the show this year, each aircrew was presented a teddy bear as part of the “Katie’s Bears” initiative named in honour of the late Kaitlin Vanderhoek, the daughter of Airshow London’s flight operations director. The bears will accompany the pilots on their future flights, pictures of which will be uploaded online at Katiesbear.com for the kids at London Children’s Hospital to see.

“Our goal is to have photos taken to provide some positive reinforcement to the kids. They get to follow along with the bears’ adventures as they travel around the world with the pilots, which will take their mind off of treatments they are undergoing and allow them to just be kids,” said De Kelver.

Airshow officials and volunteers are spending the day Monday clearing the grounds of any remnants of the show, so the airport can return to normal operations by Tuesday.

Preparations for next year’s airshow are already underway.

“We are a non-profit focused on not only providing a great experience but being a great community event with an educational aspect,” said De Kelver. “12 months ago we put in our applications for planes to come to the 2019 show. Three weeks ago we started putting together our marketing plan.”

Airshow London raises money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, veteran’s charities, and scholarships and bursaries at Fanshawe College’s Norton Wolf School of Aviation Technology.