Airshow at Night




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This year marked the 55th annual Abbotsford International Airshow. I first attended one shortly after I moved to B.C. in 1974 and have attended several times since then. When I was single we’d cram a bunch of us into a car and go together for a day. Later my wife and I took the kids to see the show every few years. But it had been over a decade since we last attended.

Now living in Abbotsford, we were sometimes entertained by mini-airshows as the jets, including the fabulous Snowbirds, sometimes roared right over our townhouse complex. But this year I really wanted to see the show right at the runway again.

The annual event runs for three days – always a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in mid-August. This year the Friday show was an evening affair, with gates opening at 3:30 PM and the show ending around 10:30 PM. We had never been to an evening airshow before, which promised some pyrotechnics as well a aerobatics, so we packed a bag with a couple of sweaters and headed out.

We bought our tickets at Save-on-Foods to save the hassle at the entrance and it’s a good idea to save money as well. Gate price per ticket was $30. At Save-on-Foods, only $25. We avoided the major crunch point by taking Townline Road to a back entrance. We were through the gates in minutes. Lots of volunteers directed traffic to the parking area.

Once inside we looked around and found one of the two runway seating areas. For an extra $10 each you could get close to front row seats. We opted to pay the extra since we hadn’t brought folding chairs or a blanket. Since it was numbered seating, we found our places, and then headed out to see the static displays.

The Abbotsford International Airshow was designated as Canada’s National Airshow by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It always features both civilian and military aerobatics as well as static displays. Whether you like barnstormers in their biplanes, hang gliders, sailplanes, powerful air force jets or aerobatic teams, the Abby Airshow has it all.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are always a major attraction and visiting aerobatic teams are often featured as well.

On the ground we got a good look at some of the active and historical planes on display. The Americans had a couple of F-15s on display and you could go up a ramp to check out the cockpit on one of them.

Eager spectators had a chance to check out the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle at this year's airshow.
Eager spectators had a chance to check out the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle at this year’s airshow.

Also on display – a CF-18 Hornet. One decked out in special Canada 150 celebration colours would fly later in the show, but here you could sit in a simulated cockpit if you wanted. There was also a giant troop carrier, a mid-air refueling plane from the American 912th Refueling Squadron, a number of private planes – trainers and stunt planes, and a row of historic planes that included the fearsome looking Douglas A-1 Skyraider aka The Proud American.

The A-1 Douglas Skyraider
The A-1 Douglas Skyraider

The wings were folded up on the display which gave you a good look at the gatling guns and missile launchers. The plane was used by the US Marines, Navy and Air Force as well as the French Air Force and the South Vietnam Air Force from the late 1940s through the 1980s. As a prop plane it was a bit of an anachronism in the age of jets.

The only exhibit we actually entered was the Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter. This aging helicopter has been a political football for years with efforts to replace it with newer equipment being stymied again and again.

The Sea King helicopter
The Sea King helicopter

This particular Sea King first saw service in 1968 – that’s an old chopper! The crew members told us it is primarily used as a submarine spotter and also does a lot of search and rescue work. As an anti-sub craft, it is equipped with torpedoes.  And we were surprised to learn that the Sea King is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Janis in the jump seat beside
Janis in the jump seat beside crewman Travis Chapman.

A separate photo gallery will have more pics from the static displays.

After seeing the ground exhibits we went back to our seats for the start of the show. The Skyhawks, the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, led off the show with displays of the Canadian and American flags while the anthems were sung. They followed that up with some entertaining stunt parachuting.

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Then the headline performers – the Snowbirds. These nine planes are the show closer during the daytime shows. For the evening show they were first up after the Skyhawks. I took a lot of photos and will feature a number of them in a separate photo gallery.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds - precision flying at its best
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds – precision flying at its best

I tried filming the Snowbirds but in movie mode, my camera uses the view screen instead of the viewfinder and it was impossible to get the planes properly centered with the glare reflecting off the screen. But I did film them in 2004 which I’ve linked below.

After the Snowbirds, we were entertained by the Heritage Flight, four fighter planes from four eras strutting their stuff, individually and together. They included the P-51 Mustang which saw duty in WWII and Korea. The F-86 Sabre was the first swept-wing jet fighter and was used in high-speed dogfights in the Korean War. It was use by the Bolivian Air Force until 1994. The F-16 Viper, also known as the Fighting Falcon, has been in production since 1976 and was used in Desert Storm. 25 different countries use the F-16. The F-35A Lightning II is the newest fighter jet, seeing service with the U.S. Marines since July 2015 and combat-ready with the U.S. Air Force since August 2016. It was the fastest jet on display and the roar of its engines as it hits the after-burners is awesome.

Heritage Flight - top to bottom - P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-16 Viper, and F-35A Lightning II.
Heritage Flight – top to bottom – P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-16 Viper, and F-35A Lightning II.

The Abbotsford International Airport is a working airport and business must go on, so there were a half dozen or so take-offs and landings during the show by commercial flights.

After a stunt flight by a plane called the Jelly Belly, the U.S. Air Force demonstrated the FA-18 Super Hornet, the newest model of the premier fighter in Canada’s fleet. This was followed by a flight of the CF-18 decked out in a special Canada 150 paint job. It was starting to get dark by then so you couldn’t really see the colours, but I did get the bird on video.

Because it was a night time show, the CF-18 dropped its tailhook on landing. Usually used to snag a catch cable on an aircraft carrier, the hook threw up a stream of sparks as it dragged behind on the pavement behind the plane. Quite a sight.

CF-18 decked out in Canada 150 colours drags its tailhook behind on landing creating a colourful spray of sparks.
CF-18 decked out in Canada 150 colours drags its tailhook behind on landing creating a colourful spray of sparks.

A couple of more stunt planes entertained before it got completely dark, one of them the renowned Red Bull Air Racer. I managed to get a nice video of this very maneuverable plane.

Now it was starting to get quite dark and the AeroShell Aerobatic Team took to the sky lit up by lights all around each lane. This was the debut performance of the team at the Abbotsford Airshow and they were terrific. Flying in formation has to be tough in full daylight so seeing them perform in the night sky was amazing.

AeroShell Aerobatic Team
AeroShell Aerobatic Team

Finally complete darkness gave way to Bob Carlton and his Super Salto Jet Sailplane. A sailplane powered by a jet engine – what a concept. Bob trailed fireworks behind him as well as launching more from the tips of his wings. My camera battery was almost dead but my wife got a video with her iPhone.

This was followed by Dan Buchanan with his hang glider, also streaming fireworks. Quite a sight.

Dan Buchanon's night time hang glider flight was a fireworks extravaganza.
Dan Buchanan’s night time hang glider flight was a fireworks extravaganza.

The evening was capped with a full fireworks show. All in all, a rather different take on the airshow than the daytime event. We enjoyed it a lot.

A couple of tips – it cools down considerably in the evening so bring a sweater. We were thankful we did and it was still a bit chilly. And exit where you came in. There was some disorganization when we left as there were no volunteers guiding vehicles and it was a bit of a free-for-all. Quite a traffic jam. We thought the way we came was crawling at a snail’s pace so we followed a bunch of cars going in a different direction – a bottleneck ending in a barrier. Volunteers there finally let us through, but we ended up on some back road. As Abbotsford residents, we figured out where we were, but non-residents could have become hopelessly lost. Leaving the airport was poorly organized. It’s something the airshow should fix for next year.

Speaking of next year, the airshow returns on August 10-12 in 2018. And the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will be back for the show next year. Definitely worth seeing.

Here are some additional photo galleries and other links. if you’re on the front page of the blog you can just scroll down, otherwise click on the links.

 




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Static Display Photo Gallery




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Here are some additional photos from the static displays ate the Abbotsford International Airshow.

CF-18 Hornet
CF-18 Hornet. To the left of it is a mock-up cockpit you could try out.
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C-130 Hercules Canadian Forces Military Transport Plane
Those are very large propellers!
Those are very large propellers!
We were surprised to learn that Abbotsford's University of the Fraser valley has a
We were surprised to learn that Abbotsford’s University of the Fraser valley has an Aircraft Structures Technician program. This is their training plane.
One of the jets open for viewing on the UFV plane
One of the jets open for viewing on the UFV plane
A rather nifty looking pilot training plane.
A rather nifty looking pilot training plane – the Diamond DA42 Twin Star.
A Pitt Special stunt plane used by the Rayban
A Pitt Special stunt plane used by the Ray-Ban Gold Aerobatic Team. They were an airshow staple from 1973 to 1990. This is the team’s last remaining airworthy Pitts Special S-2B.
Refueling plane
An aerial refueling plane from the US Air Force 912th Air Refueling Squadron
The Sea King helicopter
The Sea King anti-submarine helicopter
You got to love their slogan!
You got to love their slogan!
Janis and xxx
Janis and one of the crew of the Sea King.
That's a lot of knobs!
That’s a lot of knobs and gauges!

 




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Snowbirds Photo Gallery




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Here are additional photos of the Snowbird in action.

The Snowbirds make their entrance.
The Snowbirds make their entrance.
Up up and away
Up up and away
Inverted flyover
Inverted flyover
Heading right towards us
Heading right towards us

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Start of the starburst
Start of the starburst
Triple crossover
Triple crossover

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Up for the rollover
Up for the rollover

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The Snowbirds were undoubtedly the highlight of the Abbotsford Airshow. Simply amazing.




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Airshow Photo Gallery




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Here are some additional photos from the 2017 Abbotsford International Airshow. The static displays and the Snowbirds each have a separate photo gallery. Above – the FA-18 Super Hornet with after-burners on. Almost at the speed of sound it leaves vapor trails in its wake.

The Canada 150 flag was flying at this year's airshow
The Canada 150 flag was flying at this year’s airshow
The show-opening Skyhawks Parachute Team were amazing.
The show-opening Skyhawks Parachute Team were amazing.
Two of the Skyhawks in a downward spiral
Two of the Skyhawks in a downward spiral
The spiral kept growing
The spiral kept growing
The Skyhawks forming an arch
The Skyhawks forming an arch
And a circle!
And a circle! A bit blurry as it was grabbed from a video.
The FA-18 Super Hornet prepares for takeoff
The FA-18 Super Hornet prepares for takeoff
The Heritage Flight - four eras of combat aircraft
The Heritage Flight – four eras of combat aircraft
The P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang
The F-86 Sabre
The F-86 Sabre
The F-35A Lightning II - the miltary's newest fighter which was brought into service in 2015
The F-35A Lightning II – the miltary’s newest fighter which was brought into service in 2015
The F-16 Viper - here shown flying inverted
The F-16 Viper – here shown flying inverted
The Jelly Belly stunt plane
The Jelly Belly stunt plane. After reaching altitude, it turned off its engine and performed as a glider.
And came to a landing right up to one of the airshow's assistants
And came to a landing right up to one of the airshow’s assistants
The FA-18 Super Hornet
The FA-18 Super Hornet
The Red Bull Air Racer
The Red Bull Air Racer
The CF-18 Hornet with after-burners on. Quite dazzling at dusk.
The CF-18 Hornet with after-burners on. Quite dazzling at dusk.
The AeroShell Aerobatic Team was ablaze with lights
The AeroShell Aerobatic Team was ablaze with lights
Bob Carlton's Salto Sailplane trailing fireworks
Bob Carlton’s Salto Sailplane trailing fireworks
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Dan Buchanan’s hang glider trailing fireworks
Dan's hang glider shot out fireworks as well as trailed them behind
Dan’s hang glider shot out fireworks as well as trailed them behind
Another shot of Dan's hang glider in the night sky
Another shot of Dan’s hang glider in the night sky

Seeing the airshow in the evening wa a new experience for us and a very enjoyable one. The after dark performances were worth seeing.



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Suburban Vancouver: An Overview




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This is a follow-up to my previous post, Vancouver: An Overview.  In it I gave a rundown of a variety of attractions in the city of Vancouver proper. Today I continue with a list of things visitors to Vancouver may find interesting in the suburbs. And I am using the term loosely to refer to the panoply of towns and cities stretching from Harrison Hot Springs in the east to Squamish in the west. This is hardly an exhaustive listing simply because there are too many to cover them all and I don’t even know of them all. This is based mainly on my personal experience or what I have heard from others.

Harrison Hot Springs

Harrison Hot Springs is about an hour and a half east  of downtown Vancouver nestled beside beautiful Harrison Lake. It is a popular site for boating and just walking along the waterfront. You can take a boat excursion of the lake or rent your own boat if you like.

As the name suggests, there is a local hot springs nearby and the town has a public swimming pool which has hot water pumped in from the hot springs. There are a variety of hotel, gift shops and restaurants as well.

Harrison Mills

Harrison Mills is a tiny farming community about twenty minutes from Harrison Hot Springs but with some interesting attractions for the visitor to Vancouver. These include Rowena’s on the River, the old homestead of a wealthy lumber baron that was turned into an inn by his children. The inn hosted a Great Gatsby Party a few years ago which I wrote about here. This year they are hosting a Harvest Moon Longtable Dinner on September 16th. Dining under the stars.

Rowena's Inn on the River
Rowena’s Inn on the River

The inn is also adjacent to the Sandpiper Golf Course. And in mid-November it hosts the annual Bald Eagle Festival as majestic birds visit the river estuary to feast on spawning salmon.

Not surprisingly then, another attraction near Harrison Mills is the Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Channel. The channel is open to visitors during salmon spawning season from October 6 to Nov. 1. Peak activity is from October 15-20.

And another attraction nearby is the Hemlock Valley Ski Resort.

Mission

Mission is a small town on the north shore of the Fraser River about an hour from Vancouver. It has two attractions I know of worth a visit. The most famous is Westminster Abbey, a benedictine monastery. Built in 1954, the site includes an abbey, a church and a seminary. It sits high on a hill and is notable for its distinctive steeple which can be seen for miles around.

The second attraction of note in Mission is Cascade Falls, a remote wilderness park that I wrote about in a previous post.

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Abbotsford

Abbotsford is the town where I live so I have a particular affection for ir and familiarity with its attractions. It is known as the City in the Country and has a lot of rolling farmland including many berry farms – blueberries and raspberries are big. And it has some wineries as well.

The town abounds with walking trails – the Trans-Canada Trail runs for about twenty kilometres along the shore of the Fraser River. The Discovery Trail crosses the city and includes three lakes known as Fishtrap Creek. Mill Lake is also a favorite hiking location. And for the more energetic there is the Abbotsford Grind, a hike up Sumas Mountain.

In the Spring, you’ll want to catch the Abbotsford Tulip Festival which I wrote about when it debuted in 2016.

Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.
Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.

And every August the city is host to the annual world-renowned Abbotsford International Airshow.

Fort Langley

Fort Langley is a nice little village steeped in history. The main attraction is the old fort, a wooden stockade with many artifacts and employees in period costume demonstrating some of the trades and crafts of a bygone era.

The town itself is known for its many antique shops and boutiques as well as some nice restaurants.

White Rock

White Rock is a town adjacent to the border with the United States. The famous Peace Arch is here. White Rock also has a fine beach with a long pier where you’ll often see fishermen and crabbers. The boulevard running beside the beach front area is lined with small shops and restaurants. It is a popular dining locale with its seascape views and ocean breezes.

On the pier at White Rock
On the pier at White Rock
Richmond

Richmond is a community immediately to the south of Vancouver and home to the Vancouver International Airport. Its most notable attraction is the Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf.

Steveston is an old community and used to be home to a major salmon canning operation. The former cannery is now a fishing industry museum. Walking along the Steveston dock you’ll find many restaurants and small shops. And you’ll find fishmongers selling their wares from the boats tethered there.

Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston
Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston

Walk into the village and you’ll find a bakery, a garden shop, an ice cream parlour and other interesting shops.

A short drive away is Garry Point Park. This park sits at the mouth of the Fraser River and is noted for its windiness and the many kite flyers that like to hang out there.

Delta

Directly across the river from Steveston is the Reifel Refuge, officially the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This is a great park to walk around in and observe a wide variety of waterfowl. Almost 300 species of bird have been seen here. Of particular interest are the annual flocks of snow geese, magnificent white birds that stop here on their migration from Wrangel Island in Russia. These birds usually start arriving in early October.

New Westminster

The main attraction in New Westminster is the Westminster Quay. Its large boardwalk overlooks the Fraser River. The site is home to a large farmer’s market as well as a number of excellent restaurants. You can also visit an historic paddle-wheeler. Always a fun outing.

Burnaby

Burnaby is the city directly east of Vancouver and is known for the large Metrotown Shopping Mall and the iconic Telus building as well as a number of fine parks. But for visitors, your best bet is a museum.

The Burnaby Village Museum is a recreated period village that displays life in colonial times. Craft shops and restaurants are part of the mix. You’ll also find a restored 1912 carousel.

The people working in the village are all dressed in period costumes. The village is a delight for young and old alike.

North Vancouver

North Vancouver is home to numerous attractions. Set in the mountains on the north shore of the Burrard Inlet, it can be reached by the Lions Gate Bridge at one end and by the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge at the other end.

  • Lynn Canyon Park – this beautiful park features a number of trails through a natural setting of tall evergreens, hilly landscapes, and a raging creek. To get to the main park area you cross Lynn Creek on a rickety suspension bridge that soars high above the creek bed. Lynn Creek emerges from a narrow canyon to the north into a wide pool where locals often like to swim and to dive off the cliffs. Meandering down an increasingly rocky bed, the stream picks up speed as it cascades over several waterfalls. Unfortunately, a number of people have tempted fate and drowned here. Trails take you to a lower bridge where you can cross back to the parking lot and concession stands. Lynn Creek is a must see in my book. And it’s free!
  •  Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge – this bridge over the Capilano River is a major tourist attraction. Besides the suspension bridge over the river, there is a walkway that overhangs the river. And there is a treetop adventure – elevated walkways between the trees. This is a private facility and an admission fee is charged.
  • Grouse Mountain – in the winter Grouse is known as a mecca for local skiers. But even in the summer, there are activities aplenty, from hiking to live shows – a timber show and a birds of prey show. You can take the chairlift to the top and see the wind turbine at the peak. There is also ziplining and a number of restaurants. And did I mention the grizzly bears? I wrote about Grouse in the summer in a previous blog post.

    They land below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
    Hang gliders soar from the peak of Grouse Mountain in the summer.
  • Cleveland Dam – this dam holds back the Capilano Reservoir which supplies much of Vancouver’s water.
  • Lonsdale Quay – a large public market with many fresh farm produce shops, meat and fish markets and more. Similar to Granville Island Public Market and Westminster Quay. Lonsdale Quay is also a terminus for the Seabus, a passenger ferry running between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver.
West Vancouver

West Vancouver is home to a couple of nice nature parks, most notably Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff Park. It is also home to the Cypress Bowl ski area.

Squamish

Squamish is a small town located about an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. It is nestled at the end of Howe Sound. The Sea to Sky Highway that takes you there passes the Britannia Beach Mining Museum, a former copper mine.

Close to Squamish is a triple attraction, three places worth checking out and all within walking distance of each other. First is the thousand foot high Shannon Falls. This is a graceful airy cataract with wisps of spray catching the wind on the way down. You can easily walk right up to the base of the falls.

Beautiful Shannon Falls
Beautiful Shannon Falls

A short walk away is the Sea to Sky Gondola which takes you to the lower summit of Mount Habrich. There you’ll find trails and several viewing platforms giving sweeping panoramic views of Howe Sound.

Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola
Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola

One of the platforms gives a view from above the Stawamus Chief, the third part of this triple attraction. The Chief is a popular hiking and mountaineering destination. There is an easily accessible trail to the top of the Chief. But it is a strenuous hike and a challenge if you’re not in good shape.

Links of Interest

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