MIAMI – On September 12 and 13 of this year, the skies of London, Ontario, Canada were roaring as the 5th annual production of Airshow London returned to the city. Though this year was different, absent were the static displays, the endless rows of food trucks, and of course the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
When COVID shut down all large events back in March, airshow enthusiasts were watching the summer schedule reduce event-by-event; and in the shadows of Oshkosh, Paris and Farnborough Airshow London waited and waited. Then, in May, the brainstorming begun.
After reading a publication from the International Council of Airshows regarding some guidelines for running an airshow through the pandemic, Holly Doty (Executive Director of Airshow London), and the rest of the executive team began planning.
The Planning Takes A Village
Airshow London’s board is comprised of 10 members, with 12 other individuals on the management team. Other members and contractors comprise a team of well over 400 individuals. Beyond planning the guest experience and this year, health and safety, the airshow spends the entire year co-ordinating the airspace restrictions with London International Airport and NAV CANADA.
Doty and the team also had to make sure the London Airport knew the show had a safe plan for packing thousands of cars onto the airfield.
Further, the protocols put in place were certainly going to be a challenge. The classic airshow picture involves thousands of people crowded together, food trucks, and at Airshow London, the static ramp where anyone can go sit on the flight deck of mega transport aircraft. Doty described one of the biggest initial challenges as the budget implications.
Since a show like this has never been done before, the team had little idea what it would cost to run the show this way.
A secondary unknown was if fans would even come. She said “We had to do a little bit of pre-work quickly to ensure that A: We were going to be able to sell tickets, be able to still execute, and then [ask] how are we going to keep it safe?
The show was a big hit this year getting together the F-35 Demo, F-22 Demo. F-16 Demo and A-10 demo all together in one place. Doty says the American performers were awesome and since shows in the US were canceled due to the pandemic, Airshow London got very lucky with their variety of teams.
USAF F-22 Demo Team
USAF F-35 Demo Team
USAF F-16 Demo Team
USAF A-10 Demo Team
USAF C-17 West Coast Globemaster Demo Team
USAF KC-10 Extender
USAF B-52 Stratofortress
USAF E-3 Sentry (AWACS)
RCAF CC-150 Polaris
RCAF CF-18 Hornets
RCAF C-130 Hercules
Volunteers Put the Show on Their Backs
Doty says the start of the day was almost like Disneyworld with the thousands of cars trying to get in as soon as the show is open. The volunteers did a terrific job with controlling the movement of vehicles as they came in for parking and the teams got everyone in safely and efficiently.
The job for the volunteers did not stop there, they continued throughout the day making sure that show attendees were adhering to the protocols. Each car with a maximum capacity of 6, was assigned to a spot at the beginning of the day. Once assigned to a spot, the people within that car were allowed to step out of their vehicle but not out of their ‘pod’ without use of a face mask or covering.
Volunteers were enforcing these new rules among the long list of safety measures the airshow has in place normally including “No Smoking” and FOD (Foreign Object Debris) pickup.
The Verdict: A Roaring Success
The number estimate for attendees per day was 10,000 based on figures of (approximately) 2200 cars with an average of 4 people per car. This compared to last year which was between 6500 and 8000 per day. Meaning SkyDrive drew more of a crowd than 2019’s show.
Though Doty says, “We miss the hospitality, the party; the ability to talk with the crews” she also notes “It is a crazy success, to be the only airshow in Canada and to have 10,000 people in a day, how could you not [consider it one]!” She added: “Even behind our masks we are all so ecstatic!”
Airshow London did a fantastic job with SkyDrive under the wild circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show lives on and Canadian Airshow enthusiasts can look forward to another amazing show next September.
FEATURED IMAGE: FEATURED.JPG (C17 TOUCHING DOWN AT AIRSHOW LONDON. | PHOTO: © SHON FRIDMAN [@SIERRAFOXTROT.AVIATION])