Cold Lake Air Show takes the weather in stride, delivers the thrills

An F-15, an F-16 and an F-18
An F-15, an F-16 and an F-18 conduct a special fly past comemmorating NORAD’s 60th anniversary. Photo: Mike Luedey, The Courier

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Jeff Gaye – The Courier

Twenty thousand aviation buffs had their eyes on the skies over Cold Lake, Alberta, over a weekend in late July. In the end, they loved what they saw.

Weather had threatened to dampen the fun. Heavy rain Friday night soaked much of the airfield, and the risk of damaging hail from Friday’s storms forced some aircraft to evacuate the area until the weather cleared.

But the sun was shining when the gates opened Saturday morning. While air show crews assembled wooden walkways for some flooded areas, most patrons suffered no more inconvenience than a bit of wet grass.

By the time the flying started, the water was a non-issue. Spectators were treated to a thrilling show of military and civilian demonstrations and aerobatic displays. Some took to social media to report it was the best air show they had ever attended.

Air show organizers scored a coup earlier this year when they landed the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter for its only Canadian performance this season. For many spectators, the Raptor was the highlight of the show.

Weather threatened to cramp the Raptor’s style on Sunday. The show opened under low cloud that day, with strong winds blowing. But as the show progressed, the clouds gave way to sunshine for just long enough to allow for the full demonstration. The only act that was not able to perform was the Canadian Armed Forces SkyHawks parachute team, which had to cancel its demonstration because of the wind.

The SkyHawks provided a thrilling opener on Saturday. The RCAF’s CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team, the CC-177 Globemaster transport jet and the famous Snowbirds were the other military acts, and as always, they were enormous crowd pleasers. As well, 4 Wing-based CT-155 Hawk trainers and CF-188 fighters staged an exciting mass attack on the airfield, complete with pyrotechnics.

Planning for the 2020 Cold Lake Air Show is already underway. The committee will assess this year’s event and look for further opportunities to improve.

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