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Abbotsford — Pause for a Retrospective

By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia

July 2020 – The 2020 Abbotsford International Airshow has been canceled.

Abbotsford joined the list of major aviation events and air shows across North America that have canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time in the 58 years of the show that it has been canceled. Neither rain nor wind nor scorching hot sun has ever had this effect on the hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of spectators that have made it such a success.


Ever popular — Abbotsford's varied flightline draws the crowds.

This month I am presenting a retrospective of some of the highlights of previous "Abbotsfords" and perhaps tempt you to come next year to see for yourself.

The Abbotsford International Airport, located just outside the city of the same name and within sight of British Columbia's north-shore mountains, was originally a World War II training base dating from 1943 and has been home to a three-day air show each year beginning in 1962.


A-1 Skyraider — The Proud American.

During the early days, the Abbotsford Flying Club, together with the Delta-based EAA Chapter 85, hosted ever increasing crowds. This arrangement lasted for a number of years until the flying club purchased the chapter’s shares and took full control of the event.


Early poster from one of the first shows.

Having attended every show since the early '70s across some 45 years, I have a collection of programs and posters of past air shows to help to stimulate some memories.


Later poster from 1996.

Early on I got involved and helped coordinate the antique and homebuilt compound where we displayed the efforts of builders and restorers from around the Pacific Northwest. Today this still includes aircraft from Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and occasionally even California. In addition to the static display, each morning of the show we would put a varied group of aircraft in the air and do a series of fly-pasts until the time ran out or the announcer got bored.


F-16, F-86, F-35, and P-51 fly-past formation.

Each year, both Canadian and U.S. air forces are well represented, showing off the latest jets and helicopters. In 1986 we even had the French Patrouille de France, British Red Arrows, Italian Frecce Tricolori, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and of course the Canadian Snowbirds flight demonstration teams. Major airframe manufacturers from around the world vie for space each year, showing off their latest airliners, including Russia with the phenomenal AN225, a six-engine behemoth.


World's most expensive propeller?

Over the years, Abbotsford has also seen the likes of the Concorde, a Vulcan Bomber, B-17s, B-24s, Harvards, Chipmunks, F-86s, Voodoos, CF104s, F-4 Phantoms, F-22 Raptor, Typhoon, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon, F-18 Hornet, and F-35 Lighting. I could go on and on, but your editor won't let me.


CAF's B-17, Sentimental Journey.

In the past we saw aerobatic superstars such as Bob Hoover flying his P-51 and F-86, Art Scholl with his Super Chipmunk and his dog Aileron, the Canadian Ray Bans Pitts team, and the Eagles with Tom Poberezny.


Mosquito (2014).

Some others have included Steve Hinton, Kent Pietsch, Jimmy Franklin and Johnny Kazian, and the Canadian Army Skyhawks parachute team, each alternating with the military smoke shows. Just in case you've missed my point, this is the air show where you are likely to see the finest collection of pilots and of modern, classic, and antique aircraft that exist anywhere in the world.


John Sessions' DH.89 Dragon Rapide.

At the other end of the spectrum down here in the real world, years ago I purchased my Stinson Voyager and have put it in the general aviation display every year since.


P-40 at Abbotsford (2019).

Because I live in Langley, just 0.2 hours flying time from the show, I have never camped but you can, whether by traveling by plane, or with a car or motor home. Motels might be more difficult unless booked early. Food trucks cover the site, as do souvenir vendors, so most daily human needs get catered to.


Replica of Miss Veedol, first nonstop across the Pacific Ocean (2019).

Next year's show is the second weekend of August 2021. Why not make plans to join us? Who knows who else will be there?

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