Airshow Report
Abbotsford 50th Anniversary Airshow 2012

Keith Draycott & Brandon Farris report from Abbotsford B.C.

It was August 11th and 12th 1962 when aircraft took to the skies over Abbotsford for the first airshow to be held at the southern B.C. airfield . Fifty years later the show continues to go from stregth to strength attracting demo teams from around the world to perform at one of the top tier shows in North America.


This year's headline teams were the Canadian Air Force display team, 'The Snowbirds' along with the United States Air Force 'Thunderbirds' who were making their 15th appearance at the show. The first time the T'birds appeared was back in 1969 when they were still flying the mighty McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. For the Snowbirds, this would be the 41st consecutive visit to Abbotsford, having visited every year since the team’s creation in 1971.


Not to be outdone the Canadian Army also sent their parachute display team 'The Skyhawks'.

Many participants from both the Canadian and the United States armed forces took part in the flying display this year. Coming north from the States were a number of high-powered performers. First, the F-16 Heritage flight, piloted by Captain Garret 'Mace' Dover accompanied by a P-51 Mustang flown by Greg 'B.A.' Anders. The Navy sent up a pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets s from the VFA-122 to show off the USA’s larger version of the F/A-18 and then transitioned to a Legacy Tail Hook Flight where the F/A-18 was joined with an A-1 Skyraider also piloted by Anders. "Abbotsford has to be my favorite airshow in North America. Great organizers, volunteers and sponsors along with thousands of great fans!” Anders said, “It is always an honor to fly at this airshow, especially with this year being the 50th anniversary.” The show also featured a Search and Rescue Demo from the Coast Guard which brought their Dolphin Helicopter from Port Angeles WA.

From the Canadian side of the border we saw the CF-18 Hornet demo, piloted by Captain Patrick 'Paco' Gobeil. 'Paco' holds nothing back during the demo and does things with the aircraft rarely seen elsewhere. Unfortunately the wild flight caused the aircraft to break about a quarter of the way into the demo on Saturday leaving many in the crowd disappointed but still thoroughly impressed. Something unique with the CF-18 demo team is that they apply a special scheme to the aircraft each year to signify the things that Canada stands for. This year’s plane features 13 unique snowflakes that are representing Canada’s provinces and territories. The other Canadian Armed Forces act that was featured was a Joint Tactical Assault demo featuring assets from both the Air Force and Army. The Air Force flew two CF-18s as a show of Air Power while ground forces attacked the enemy who had taken up position at crowd center !

Many U.S. civilian acts also made the trip north of the border, including Historic Flight Foundation with their B-25D Mitchell 'Grumpy' and the Spitfire flown by HFF’s founder John Sessions. Heritage Flight Museum based in Bellingham also made it up to partake in the war bird demonstration with Greg Anders flying the P-51 Mustang and A-1D Skyraider. Announcing the warbird acts was Aviation Historian Barry Latter, who was a perfect fit with his knowledge and knowing to let airshow goers enjoy the classic roar of the vintage engines as they flew past.

"For the 50th anniversary edition of the Abbotsford Airshow it was an honor for the crew and support staff of Historic Flight Foundation to bring our B-25D, 'Grumpy', an aircraft that actually flew with the RCAF from 1945 to 1962.” Said Michael Kopp, one of Grumpy’s pilots, “Every time we fly this airplane we think about the very young men and their support crews, who flew these aircraft facing enemy fighters, flak, and difficult living conditions. Our hope is that while the crowd enjoys the aerial display they also think about the greatest generation along with other veterans who have answered the call."


Other civilian acts taking to the air included, the smoke trailing Hawker Sea Fury FB-11 'Argonaut' in the hands of owner Dennis Sanders and the Fouga Magistair owned and operated by Bud Grantley.

A couple of the more entertaining acts at the show were supplied by Paul Stender. Paul has created a jet powered outhouse and school bus and both looked mighty impresive with huge sheets of flame shooting out the back as they made their way up and down the Abbotsford runway.

The static line up was extensive and included KC-10 Extender, C-17A Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-5 Galaxy, B-52 Stratofortress, and C-130 Hercules from the US Air Force.

The Canadians brought in many aircraft including the CC-130 Hercules, CT-142 Dash 8, CT-155 Hawk, CT-156 Harvard II, CP-140 Aurora, CH-149 Cormorant and CH-124 Sea King.

The only other foreign participation came from the Royal Netherlands Air Force who sent a DC-10-30 from No 334 Sqn based at Eindhoven.



From a photography point of view, the main challenge of the show is the orientation of the airfield. The display line is due south of the crowd, which means that until around 4pm all photograpy is directly into sun resulting in many backlit shots. Regardless of that, the impressive line up of different types assembled every year makes this a show that is well worth the trip and we look forward to attending the next fifty shows.

It takes many volunteers to keep this show going every year, from everyone on our staff we thank those who donate their time year after year to help make this show the huge success it has become. Specifically, we would like to thank Media Director Mary Lee for the assitance in producing this report and the great hospitality.


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