The 2018 edition of the Cold Lake Air Show was highly anticipated. In addition to the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and CF-18 Hornet Demo, the show hosted the only Canadian appearance by the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team.
Arrival day started early on Thursday, with the arrival of the mighty B-52 Stratofortress. This massive bomber was the first to arrive, by design, not timing. As one of the largest aircraft to attend, and needing a lot of room to move, it had to arrive early, so that smaller static aircraft could be parked, without having to move the massive aircraft. Smaller aircraft continued to arrive throughout Thursday afternoon, but one highlight was another rather large aircraft. The C-5M Super Galaxy appeared off in the distance. The aircraft made its way over the City of Cold Lake, before performing several impressive touch-and-go landings. Needless to say, the Galaxy put the fighter guys to shame, on arrival day. The most anticipated arrival was the last one. Two F-22A Raptors, dragged down from Alaska by a KC-135 tanker, appeared on the horizon, before performing a couple of touch-and-go's. The aircraft was definitely impressive!
Friday saw a full practice day from the performers. Civilian performers included Rob Holland, as well as Team Rocket. Greg Coyler was also in attendance, flying "Ace Maker II", a former RCAF CT-133 Silver Star. One highlight of the show was the airfield Mass Attack. Four CT-155 Hawks and eight CF-18 Hornets, launched, then attacked the airfield. The finale saw all of the aircraft perform an impressive mass flypast. With Norad, celebrating 60 Years, a unique formation of aircraft, comprised of a USAF F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and CF-18, performed formation passes, as well as individual touch-and-go's, ending with some impressive vapour. Captain Stefan "Porcelain" Porteous, demonstrated the CF-18 with an impressive solo demo, along with a rare demo, performed by the RCAF CC-177 Globemaster III. The practice day was rounded out by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, but once again, the most anticipated performance was from the F-22 Raptor. It is one thing to see the demo on the internet, but it truly has to be seen live, in order to appreciate the performance of the aircraft. Set up activity basically stopped, as everyone gazed in awe, at the Raptor.
One display, on the ground, held special significance. 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron was celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2018. In addition to an extensive ground display of artifacts, outside of Hangar 6, the 401 Sqn Colour jet was displayed with replicas of the Hurricane and Spitfire, which 401 flew during World War 2.
Weather had been great for the show, for the majority of the weekend. However, Sunday brought clouds and rain to the area, which threatened cancellation of flying events. Luckily, the rain stopped and cloud ceiling allowed the show to go on. It should also be noted that a massive thunderstorm system came through the Cold Lake area, late Friday. This prompted all performing and static aircraft to be towed into hangars and most of the event grounds to be broken down. This meant a very (very) early morning for volunteers and organizers, on Saturday. What usually takes the better part of two days to set up, had to be set back up within four to five hours. The show organizers and volunteers did a fantastic job and were ready for the gates to open, on time.
Departures were fairly routine on Monday. The highlight was the departure of the B-52, which was one of the last aircraft to depart. Before departure, a sea of humanity slowly made its way down the entire length of the runway, in order to ensure that no FOD (Foreign Object Debris) was present. With the departure of the B-52, the long drive home began.
Once again, the organizers and volunteers of the Cold Lake Airshow, did an amazing job, despite the challenges thrown their way. This show is quickly establishing itself as the premier airshow in western Canada. Planning for the 2020 show is already underway, with early confirmation that the United States Navy Blue Angels, will be headlining the show. The 2020 edition of the Cold Lake Airshow, certainly promises to be bigger and better.
I do have to say thank you to LCol Forrest Rock and all of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron. I had the great fortune to contribute some model aircraft to their historic display, and as such, was welcomed very warmly by the squadron. So, thank you to 401 Squadron for getting me access to the show, and letting me help celebrate the Ram's 100th Anniversary. Also, many thanks to the organizers of the Cold Lake Airshow, including Major Erick O'Connor.
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