Through the Lens - Ray's Airshow Report



Melissa PembertonMelissa Pemberton: Melissa showed up in western Canada for the 2010 air show season in her Edge 540 and wowed us all! This young pilot enters the air show stage in an inverted flat spin reminiscent of Wayne Handley's moves in the recip-Raven. The rest of her performance is snappy and exciting. This gal is one to watch!

Jon Melby Jon Melby: Jon performed at Dawson Creek in 2010 on his way to another show. That was the first time I saw him. He returned to fly the Airdrie show in 2011. His performance just gives evidence to my claim that the Pitts Special is still an exciting air show performer 50+ years after its design! There was talk of Jon joining up with another Pitts flyer, Dave Mathieson, for a dual Pitts performance. I never saw it, but it would be good!

Dave MathiesonDave Mathieson: Dave roared onto the air show stage in 2010. He flies a hopped up Pitts painted yellow and black. He flies it like an angry hornet (the bug, not the F-18). That plane is one of those which are really photogenic! He needs to 'serious up' his patter just a bit. Watch this high energy Canadian go places! I was impressed with the story of Dave's engine replacement. Apparently, gremlins got into his engine as he made his way to an American show. He landed in Chilliwack where Ray Firkus and his able group arranged for a new engine to be flown in, and had it installed in record time! Way to go!!

Ron AndrewRon Andrew: Ron calls his plane and show "The Blender"! He flies the beautiful Pitts S2B which was originally a RayBan Gold plane. Bill Carter flew it as the ESSO Pitts Special for more than ten years. Little Jimmy Hrymack had it for a couple of seasons. I think Eric (Team Rocket) Hansen owned it for a while too. Now Ron is flying it as The Blender. Being a relatively new air show pilot, Ron's show is high, but very good. The guy's a natural performer! I hope he takes his time and moves his show down so he is comfortable at that altitude. I really enjoyed shooting him at Bassano this summer.

Pete McLeod Pete McLeod: Pete returned to the air show circuit with his Red Bull racer in the summer of 2011. He flies it like he stole it! He uses the whole show box so everyone can see this talented pilot do what he does best. He flies a Red Bull race course every time he comes into the show box, only more so! I'm sort of hoping the Red Bull races don't resume, so that we might get to see more of this guy in air shows!

Kent PietschKent Pietsch: Kent was back at Abbotsford for the 2011 show after missing the 2010 show. Kent and that little Interstate Cadet covered in jelly beans are so loved, and they have become a tradition at Abbotsford now. His comedy routine is so well known now that everyone has fun with it! I'm hoping he'll be back for Abbotsford's 50th show in 2012.

Bud GranleyBud Granley: What else can I say about this truly superb performer? He just celebrated his fiftieth year in air shows! His partnership with his son Ross is a natural.He flew at Abbotsford in 2011, and I assume he will also fly at the 2012 show. Bud has made the Abbotsford show much of what it is!

Brian BewsBrian Bews: Brian made headlines when he had to punch out of his CF-18 Demo Hornet before it crashed during a practice at an air show in western Canada in 2010. I am happy to report that Brian is OK and has resumed his aviation career in the RCAF!

Team Rocket Team Rocket (Ken Fowler and Eric Hansen): These two have continued to move the performance bar up at every chance they get. Watching Team Rocket perform either in daylight or at night with their pyro, one forgets that these guys can do solos too!Maybe, at some shows sometime, they can take turns showing us a bit more solo flying!

Northern Aeros The Northern Areos (Jerzy Strzyz and Kevin Hopkins): These two flew at shows across the West in the summer of 2011. They fly an excellent dual show, but again, each has his strengths as a solo too! Jerzy's solo is fantastic, but I would like to see a bit more solo from Kevin sometime too!

Ross GranleyRoss Granley: Flying with his legendary father, Bud, must have its difficulties, but Ross makes it work so easily! Those who watch that big Yak 18 carve up the sky have learned to appreciate Ross on his own merits. He is a superb show pilot.

John Mrazek John Mrazek:  It was good to see John and his Pussycat II fly at Chilliwack in 2011.  Something John introduced to air shows a couple of years ago was the onboard camera with the video stream put live onto a jumbo-tron!  At Chilliwack in 2011 he sat it out while other pilots took up the cameras.  This could really be something for the future of air shows!   And NO, in my opinion you can never have too many Harvard-Texan-T6-SNJ performances!

Bill CarterBill Carter:  I didn’t see Bill fly in 2011 at all.  My loss!  He’s still got to be one of my all time favourites. 

Dr. Phipps Doctor Phipps:  You may recall that Dr. Phipps was injured in a mishap at the Nanaimo Air Show early in the 2011 season.  We missed you at Chilliwack this summer and we’re all rooting for you Doc.  Get well soon.

Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes Gene Soucy and Teresa StokesI saw them in Saskatoon in 2011.  I love that big old noisy Show Cat.  Gene’s smoke has got to be one of the best in the business, too!  I heard that gremlins ate a piece of Gene’s engine in Saskatoon, too.  I hope everything went OK with the repairs, Gene.

Hafeli and Hildebrandt Ken Hildebrandt and Roy HafeliThese two announcers have teamed up to form an air show gab fest duet!  Watching these two work is amazing.  They pass the description of an air show act back and forth like a couple of NBA players. Roy may start it, then pass it to Ken while he looks for an anecdote in his notes.  When he has it he signals to Ken who passes it back.  Poetry in motion!

Bud Granley Ross and Bud Granley

In Memorial 

Greg PoeGreg Poe:  It was with great sadness that I heard of Greg Poe’s passing in the summer of 2011.  I understand that Greg died of a medical condition and was not flying at the time.  Greg was one of the true gentlemen of the air show industry!  Greg and I met in Red Deer, Alberta, many years ago and I was fortunate to be able to do some air-to-air photoshooting with him over the years.  It was indeed a pleasure to work with this quiet spoken air show professional.  Air shows have lost a true great.  We will miss him!



Rocky Mountain House: The Rocky Mountain House Air Show is like the U.S. Mail; it always goes through! The 2010 edition of the air show had just nicely started when a violent thunderstorm blew in!  Almost everyone hunkered down and weathered the storm.  The storm quit and the show resumed!  Way to go Rocky!

Saskatoon:  The first show I photoshot in Saskatoon was in May about 20 years ago.  I was standing next to a duck pond and it was snowing!  I was shooting under the semi trailer trucks on the highway between the crowd and the show box.  WILD!  Two years ago I went to my first indoor Airshow also at Saskatoon.  In 2011 we added another first; an Airshow at an oval car racing track with the show box once again across the highway from the crowd!  It was an awesome show despite the `` iffy`` weather.  Brian Swidrovich, take another bow…and I owe you one!

Chilliwack:  I and Aero-Kards are pleased to be a small sponsor of this, the biggest little Airshow in the West! The 2011 show was hot, hot!  It was 32 degrees Celsius with a high humidity!  I stayed back from the front of the show line.  It was just too hot, even for an old air show dog like me! Great show though.  Chilliwack is still my favourite show site.  The evening BBQ before the show and the “smallness” of the site make it great.  I was concerned over a rumour that the show may not be able to continue in the future.  I hope that was just a rumour.

Dawson Creek:  Dawson Creek went in 2010.  Super little show.  It was the first time I saw Manfred Radius perform his evening show.  He replaces the smoke cans on the wingtips of his Salto Glider with pyro!  The show is basically the same as his day show but I think it’s much more spectacular!  We also saw Brian Bews fly the CF-18 Demo Hornet just a couple of days before the aircraft was destroyed in a boo-boo at another show site.  Brian parachuted to safety!

Airdrie:  I was disappointed at the low turnout for the 2011 edition of the Airdrie Regional Air Show.  The organizers appeared to have all the issues of the 2009 show solved and were obviously planning for a larger crowd.  The show was excellent.  This year they even had an American Demo Team flying the F-16 Viper!   They want to do it again in 2013 but there’s a glitch.  The new runway at YYC is located almost straight South of the Airdrie show site.  I hope the folks from Airdrie and Calgary ATC can sort this out.  

Wetaskiwin: The 2010 show in Wetaskiwin was great.  I watched Melissa Pemberton again.  This young lady has a talent for air show flying.  I also enjoyed the flight of Gray’s Ghost.  It is a F4U built by Goodyear and dedicated to Canadian Lt. Robert Hampton Gray who was awarded the V.C. for his efforts to sink a Japanese destroyer in W.W. II.  He flew a Corsair.

Bassano: Little Jimmy Hrymack ran Alberta’s `little air show with a big heart` again in 2011.  Once again, this little show was one of the highlights of my summer.  A couple of thousand people showed up (twice the population of the town) to watch Team Rocket, The Northern Aeros, Dave Mathieson, Pete MacCleod, Ron Andrew,  Jim Hrymack and others! Ken Hidebrandt and Roy Hafeli gabbed the show again.  What a fantastic air show evening!

Abbotsford: The cancellation of the F-22 Raptor’s demo really threw a wrench into the military component at Abby this year!  But the rest of the show made up for it.  I really enjoyed the Spitfire demo.  There was lots of talk about next years show, Abby’s fiftieth!  I hope and pray that Kent Pietsch and the Granleys are in the mix for next year.  They have done so much to make Abbotsford the air show it is today.   

Camrose: I made two visits to the big city of Camrose in the summer of 2011.  The first visit was to watch the magnificent Snowbirds perform over the country music festival held there annually.  I stayed at the airport where a small but appreciative crowd watched the start up, take off, performance and landing.  It was an excellent chance to get up close and personal with these young pilots.  My second visit to Camrose was in late summer for the 2011 Hot Air Balloon Championship.  This was the first time I had ever photoshot a hot air balloon event.  I had a ball!  After photographing an air show, shooting a hot air balloon event is totally different.  It brings a whole new meaning to the term `High Speed Pass`!   These folks have almost zero actual control over their aircraft!  They can go up and they can come down; that’s it! Yet they can manoeuvre their craft within a few meters of a target from a take off of more than four kilometres away.  Now that’s impressive!