Friends, fun, and flying: Airshow London is back for another year

An RCAF F-18 fighter jet decked out in Canada 150 fashion at the London Airshow, September 2017. Global News

With star-studded performances from the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighter and U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II, this year’s Airshow London is being dubbed as Canada’s largest demonstration of military air power.

“We’ve got the F-35 demo team, we’ve got the F-35 sea aircraft, first time it’s ever been outside of the United States. We’ve got F-22s, F-16s, A-10s. We’ve got the Canadian Forces F-18 demo team, we’ve got the Snowbirds, and much much more, and that’s just the flying stuff,” said Jim Graham, chair of the board for the London Airshow. “On the ground, we’ve got a whole group of heavy aircraft, big refuelers. There’s going to be wings, airplanes, engines, and all kinds of afterburners in the sky.”

READ MORE: Airshow London 2017 to be Canada’s largest demonstration of military air power

Captain Matthew Kutryk, an F-18 pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, has been flying in shows across the continent all summer.

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He says he’s a fighter pilot, so flying in an airshow is a bit of a game changer.

“So normally I’m flying the grey F-18 operationally as a tactical section lead. This summer I take the same aircraft, but I’ve got a special paint job. I’m taking that aircraft, showcasing the aerodynamic capabilities of Canada’s multi-role fighter the CF-18. Flying that jet in its clean configuration, when I say clean I mean there’s no external weight on it, no external tanks or weapons. It is the engineered aerodynamic limit of the aircraft,” said Kutryk.

“So I get to take it as fast as it can go, as high as it can go, as low as it can go, and as slow as it can go, transitioning between those regimes with very aggressive aerodynamic manoeuvres. Loops, rolls, high-angled attack, which is the nose authority of the fighter jet, how fast I can turn, it’s amazing. As a pilot and as a fighter pilot, it’s like a dream.”

Asked how he feels about performing in London, Kutryk explains there’s a joke in the squadron that London is the third-largest fighter base in Canada. Although that’s not actually true, Kutryk says a lot of fighter jets do pass through the city.

“I think London has a special place in most fighter pilots’ hearts. There’s two reasons for that. One is the geographic connection with a lot of guys being from this area that currently fly the F-18, but the other connection is the support and enthusiasm we see here in London,” said Kutryk.

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READ MORE: Airshow London 2017 adds premier jet to roster

Kutryk says often when an F-18 comes through the city, the control tower asks if they can do a second pattern and make a little noise.

“It’s music to my ears.”

Airshow London is the largest in Canada and the third largest in North America. Before returning last year, the show was on a 12-year hiatus.

Insurance costs, bad weather, and concerns surrounding terrorism all factored into the decision to cancel the show.

Graham says between the airport and Fanshawe College, a group of people were asked to see if it would be feasible to bring the show back as a non-profit.

“About three or four years ago, a small group sat down around a table for hours, and we decided we could make a go of it. We’re thrilled, not only that we’ve brought it back, but we’re supporting the Children’s Health Foundation, Parkwood Hospital, and the Fanshawe Norton School of Aviation,” said Graham.

Graham says there are a few reasons they decided to bring the airshow back to London.

“We want to see those kids [at the Fanshawe Norton school of aviation] stay in London. We want to attract aerospace industries to London. London is an aerospace defensive hub corporately for Canada, and it’s important that all those folks in that industry have a place to show it off. The other reason is Londoners just really missed the airshow. It’s been very exciting to have all that community goodwill,” said Graham.
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New this year is the Kids Zone, complete with face painting, a bouncy castle and a clown.

READ MORE: Airshow warns Londoners to keep drones grounded near airport

While planes are flying high, Graham is reminding everyone to keep their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) grounded.

“Absolutely no drones. The no-drone zone around the airport has been expanded to 10 miles. The London Police Service, as well as a number of the other security services, are going to be enforcing that with great vigilance. It’s dangerous to pilots, dangerous to the crowds. Use those drones other days and elsewhere please,” said Graham.

Graham says they’re set up for 35,000 to 40,000 visitors over the course of the weekend.

As for Kutryk, this weekend has a special sentiment.

“This show here in London this weekend at the end of September is our last Canadian show of 2017. We’re pretty fired up. It’s been an amazing season getting here to London. Seeing the crowds pre-show on a Thursday is a bit of an indicator of what’s to come. On top of that, the weather forecast is absolutely gorgeous. I’m enthusiastic, and I know my whole team is pretty excited to wrap the season up with the big one here in London,” he said.

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Gates open at 4:00 p.m. Friday, air display begins at 5:00 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the gates open 9:00 a.m. and air display begins at 1:00 p.m.

VIP on-site parking will be available for $15 plus service fee and taxes, but general admission and accessible parking will also be available.

You can find more information about parking here.

General admission single day tickets are $30, $15 for students and children aged six-12, $25 for veterans, military, or seniors, and children under five get in for free.

Tickets are available at the gate or online.

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