After going on a brief hiatus, the Wetaskiwin Air Show is back for another year – but it comes at a time when the aviation community is in mourning.
Stunt pilot Bruce Evans was killed during his performance at the Cold Lake Air Show on Sunday.
He was supposed to be perform in Wetaskiwin Wednesday.
Air Show volunteer Tom Hinderks remembered Evans fondly.
“A really good person, an exceptional pilot,” he said. “Meticulous, methodical – everything you want to see in a pilot. His aircraft was immaculately maintained. His loss has come as a tremendous shock.”
Evans’ unexpected death has prompted the aviation community – already very particular about safety – to ramp up inspections even more.
“Because there’s no smoking gun, there’s nothing obvious, we have to wait for the investigation to determine what’s happened, we have to be extra cautious and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Before air show pilots ever perform in front of an audience, they go through years of testing and training.
“You have to have a commercial pilot’s licence to begin with – that’s a big endeavour – and aerobatic rating,” Hinderks explained. “Then, you have to get rated for low flight – and there’s other ratings – then you have to demonstrate the ability to do it safely.”
The planes are also checked and double checked.
“The aircraft themselves go through an annual inspection, 100 hour inspections, 50 hour inspections, pre-flight inspections, post-flight inspections and all of those are going to be intensified right now, just out of caution.”
Aerobatic stunt pilot Stefan Trischuk also has a plan B, in case all else fails.
“I also wear a parachute so if there ever was a problem, I would use the parachute.”
He said pilots do everything in their power to ensure their safety.
“It does look risky for entertainment value and of course there is risk in aviation, especially with this sort of flying, but we try and control those risks as much as possible,” Trischuk said. “Nothing that we do here at the show isn’t stuff that we’ve routinely practised over and over again.”
He said Evans’ death is weighing on everyone’s minds.
“What we do in the airshow industry, it’s such a small community of pilots, it’s so specialized, doing the air show, flying in front of a crowd, we’re almost like an air-show family.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s scared to get in his plane.
“The reason that we do this, we do the airshows, flying the acrobatics, is because we’re so passionate about it, we love what we do.”
The air show does plan on doing something special in memory of Evans and Trischuk will be doing his best to make him proud.
“We’re going to give this Wetaskiwin crowd one heck of a show!”
Wetaskiwin’s air show starts Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum grounds. The aerial performances will begin around 6:30 p.m.