Bits and Pieces
Gatineau Air Show: A Preview
By Jack and Jean Dueck
An amazing weekend! Almost before we had planned, we found ourselves in the Vintage Wings hangar with all their pristine polished aircraft, mostly vintage 1940s. This July 4th occasion was the summer’s opening air show by Vintage Wings of Canada. The occasion was also special since the Canadian Snowbirds would entertain the crowd in their first Gatineau appearance.
Admiring the vintage aircraft, however, was not our mission. As purveyors and marketers of the new Canadian EAA Fly-In, which will support VW ‘s Victoria Cross and Battle of Britain memorial air show on September 18, we were there to look around the site, take a few pictures, and give you a preview of what you might experience if you decide to fly or trek across the country for this September event.
Gatineau is the old “Hull” side of Ottawa-Hull, about 30 minutes from the Macdonald Cartier International Airport in Ottawa. The winding road ‘Gatineau Trail’ is a tortuous tangle of large and small streets through central Ottawa with frequent glimpses of the old, old city as well as very recognizable parliament and federal court buildings. Bring your best GPS and take it slow until you become a little familiar with the landmarks, which are memorable even after one pass. The signage becomes more French but is not undecipherable or confusing even for the most hampered Anglophone.
With no wrong turns whatsoever, we found ourselves on the Aeroport Parkway and the airport driveway into the Gatineau airport. Volunteers were there to help us park. We were early, but by the start-time of the air show there were several thousand spectators on the field and all readily visible parking was full. We left the car and made our way to the Gatineau Airport Terminal Building. The terminal is about the size of that in most uncontrolled city airports. It services general aviation and processes several commuter flights to the major centes nearby. The terminal is accessible, clean, and spacey with all the normal amenities, including restaurant, boardroom, and meeting facilities.
After freshening up in the terminal building, we did a brief walkabout of the nearby grounds. Everything was clean and green, before and AFTER the air show. The camping and car parking areas are not vast expanses as we see in OSH, but numerous meadows bordered by trees and adjacent to another similar field. At the present time, there seem to be endless expansions of spaces for cars and campers.
On the air side, Gatineau (CYND) has a 6,000-foot runway with one midpoint turnout to the main tarmac, where the air show spectators were gathered. The absence of a taxiway was cleverly accommodated by the air show boss, who had the upcoming aircraft at the hold line while the previous acts landed and proceeded further down the runway. At that time, the new act/aircraft proceeded onto the runway and both aircraft did a simultaneous backtrack from and to the runway midpoint. It seemed to minimize the waiting time and afforded a little extra conversation and photo time for the waiting spectators.
The huge Gatineau air show crowd, estimated at 25,000, is there to connect and have fun. They readily cheer and clap and exclaim over each demonstration. The French language swirled around our little grassy knoll, where we flopped down without lawn chairs or coolers. We laughed and talked to our ‘neighbours’ in monosyllables and hand gestures and felt energized by their enthusiasm. We found the crowd respectful and the grounds clean, reminiscent of the EAA Oshkosh culture.
With most of the aircraft pulled out of the hangar, there now appeared several little sales booths with aviation art, models, and of course aviation books. Up front was a long table with a mini KidVenture. Outside there were vendors with hats and t-shirts, hamburgers and hot dogs and of course ‘Biere’ (“pour dejeuner!”).
No need to comment on the air show; if you have any taste for aviation history you will be transported by the glory of these historic birds. Our own (SportAir Canada’s) Rob Erdos gave a beautiful aerobatic demonstration of the Harvard. This was not so much speed and sound as precision and grace that gave the grumbly Harvard an unexpected grace.
The schedule was precisely followed even as one aircraft was ‘scrubbed’ for a panel light and another expanded to fill the gap. The only lag in the proceedings was a few minutes of downtime while we waited for the Snowbirds to end the show with their precision flying.
The air show ended about 3 p.m., so we made our way past several completely full parking areas. We were feeling the heat along with some jet lag, but the walk wasn’t long. The volunteers were a little overwhelmed with the volume of traffic on exit, but a few cars seemed to know a back way and we followed these savvy travelers. We zipped out of the parking lot and were immediately back on the freeway to Ottawa.
We had already spied out a ‘Keg’ a half-block from our hotel. There are a great number of restaurants and attractions in Ottawa or nearby Montreal if your kids want to practice their French language skills. We dined very well and then bedded down early since we had to get up at 2 a.m. MDT to catch our 0715 EDT flight back to Calgary.
As stated earlier, we were there to evaluate the interest, and the ability of this airport to support a developing Canadian EAA air show and convention site. Quite frankly, we were overwhelmed by the size and the enthusiasm of the crowd. In a recent poll in Bits & Pieces (EAA’s Canadian e-Newsletter), 98.7 percent indicated that they would support a National Canadian EAA Fly-In, while 91 percent indicated that they would take part in it. From our prospective, we will be well served by Gatineau. See you there this September 18 and 19.