Saskatchewan Airshow soars in the skies, sees capacity problems at ground level

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WATCH: Back at 15 Wing Moose Jaw for the first time in 14 years, the Saskatchewan Airshow went off 'without a hitch' in the skies, but experienced problems when the grounds hit capacity on Saturday – Jul 7, 2019

The first air show at 15 Wing Moose Jaw in 14 years went pretty flawlessly — in the skies, at least.

Just ask aerobatics pilot Gordon Price. If anyone’s opinion should count, it’s his. The 77-year-old has been flying for 60 years and performing in air shows since the 1970s.

“I think it went perfect from my point of view. I was very happy with the flight,” Price said. “I think I got the reaction from everybody I was looking for. I like to scare them.”

An entire range of emotions was felt by the tens of thousands who took in the weekend event. They were scared, thrilled and dazzled by Price and his YAK 50 airplane, along with CF-18 fighter jets, vintage warplanes and the iconic Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

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Operations didn’t go as smoothly at ground level, though.

On Saturday, the grounds at 15 Wing Moose Jaw reached capacity and many spectators, some who had purchased tickets months in advance, were turned away.

“We had planned for 25,000. Over the course of the day, we realized there were some limitations we had for service and support here,” said Saskatchewan Airshow director Regan Wickett.

Wickett said closing the gates was a tough decision, but with designated parking and the event grounds at capacity, patron safety had to be considered.

“We want people to know that we’re deeply sorry for the inconvenience. We understand that, and the decision was not taken lightly. We also want people to know that even though we’re aiming for their satisfaction at this event, we’re always responsible for their safety and we put that first.”

The air show honoured any tickets purchased for the Saturday events the following day. Wickett said anyone who had a Saturday ticket but was unable to redeem it Sunday should reach out to them.

Some took to social media to complain about a shortage of porta-potties and water services on Saturday. Wickett said his team was able to address those issues with military efficiency.

“We teamed up with the city of Moose Jaw to bring in portable water service to make sure everybody on site here had access to water,” Wickett said. “And we were able to work with our corporate partners to bring in three times as many porta-potties in the course of six hours.”

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Organizers say they plan to hold the event, which was largely funded by sponsors, every two years going forward, using what they learned from this year’s show to make any necessary changes.

Aviation enthusiasts can expect at least one thing to stay the same, though: Price says he can’t wait to get back into the Saskatchewan skies.

“I’ll be there with bells on!”

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