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.

After a tragic crash in March the CF Snowbirds were grounded all summer. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

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.

Even with the airshow running, London Airport controllers have to work in scheduled WestJet Encore and Air Canada Jazz flights. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

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 static ramp at Airshow London in 2017. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

The Performers


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.

A rare moment as the F-35, F-22, F-16 and A-10 all fly together in formation. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF Thunderbirds

USAF Thunderbirds performing the Calypso pass. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF F-22 Demo Team

F22.JPG

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo passing the crowd at Airshow London. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

USAF F-35 Demo Team

F35.JPG

USAF F-35 Lightning Demo passing the crowd at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF F-16 Demo Team

USAF F-16 Viper Demo launching skywards at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF A-10 Demo Team

USAF A-10 Warthog on the slow pass at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF C-17 West Coast Globemaster Demo Team

USAF C-17 Globemaster on the slow pass at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF KC-10 Extender

USAF KC-10 Extender flying over the airshow. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

USAF B-52 Stratofortress

USAF B-52 Stratofortress on a fast pass at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USAF E-3 Sentry (AWACS)

USAF E-3 Sentry passing over the airshow. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

RCAF CC-150 Polaris

RCAF CC-150 Polaris approaching with an aerial refuelling demo. | Photo: © Aaron Davis [IG: @threshold.productions]

RCAF CF-18 Hornets

RCAF CF-18 Hornets passing by the crowd at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

RCAF C-130 Hercules

RCAF C-130 Hercules flying over Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

USCG Dauphin

United States Coast Guard Dauphin hovers as they do a rescue demo at Airshow London. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

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.

Cars were separated to comply with social distancing measures. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

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.

The AF Thunderbirds break off to end the show. | Photo: © Shon Fridman [IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation]

FEATURED IMAGE: FEATURED.JPG (C17 TOUCHING DOWN AT AIRSHOW LONDON. | PHOTO: © SHON FRIDMAN [@SIERRAFOXTROT.AVIATION])