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

Airshow London flies in Friday

The skies above London are about to be taken over by a large array of fighter jets and military tankers.

Airshow London takes off for a fourth straight year at the London International Airport on Friday.

The three-day aviation extravaganza features more than 85 planes including the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, the CF-18 Demonstration Team, the B-52 – Minot Air Force Base, the US Navy Aggressor F-5, and the Black Knight T-33.

The Skyhawks, the Canadian Forces parachute team, will jump from their plane high above the ground and use their Canadian flag parachutes to create aerobatic formations for those below. Also taking to the sky to perform are aerobatic pilots Pete McLeod and Mike Tryggvason.

On the ground, spectators will be able to see 25 military planes from across North America up close and chat with the pilots who fly them.

“The C-5 Galaxy is the largest aircraft in the United States Air Force’s inventory. It will hold six greyhound buses and is going to be open to the public with the nose and cargo doors at the back open so they can walk through and see that giant aircraft,” said Jim Graham, chair of Airshow London. “There is also a whole bunch of fighters and other military aircraft that are going to be parked on the ground with the crews explaining what they do and some of them open to the public.”

Since the airshow returned to London in 2016 following a 12-year absence, the focus has been on making the event as family-friendly as possible. Once again this year, the event will include a kids zone and is free to attend for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult.

“We really do want to inspire the next generation of aviators and those who support aviation,” said Graham. “We want to get the kids and their families into the airplanes on the ground, talking to the crews about what they do and the aircraft they are flying. Looking at the local companies and Fanshawe College that are very involved in supporting aerospace internationally.”

Graham also noted the show grounds were built with families in mind, ensuring it is convenient to park and navigate with plenty of food and beverage stations throughout.

The Friday night performance is among Graham’s favourite parts about the three-day event.

“It is an incredible three hour condensed flying display,” said Graham. “The CF-18 takes a hook like it’s on an aircraft carrier, throwing up sparks at the end of the night with its afterburners roaring.”

While there is a bit of rain in the forecast for Friday, the final two days of the show are expected to be sunny and warm with Environment Canada calling for daytime highs of 23 C and 24 C on Saturday and Sunday. According to Graham, the sunshine will help draw people to the show.

“We don’t want people looking out the window [Thursday] to be discouraged from buying tickets for the weekend,” said Graham. “Based on the ticket sales that are already coming in in advance, we are expecting between 25,000 to 30,000 over the course of the weekend. We’ve got folks coming from around the globe – Switzerland to Australia and every territory and province in Canada as well as a lot of folks from Michigan and Ohio. It is going to be a very busy venue.”

More than 500 volunteers assisting with everything from parking to garbage cleanup to hospitality and security make the airshow possible. A large group of those volunteers are students from Fanshawe’s aviation programs.

Airshow London, a not-for-profit organization, raises money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and veteran’s charities.

Advance tickets, which are 20 per cent cheaper, will be available until gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. The airshow runs until 9 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

For more information or tickets visit airshowlondon.com.