My fiance received free passes to the Hamilton Air Show so we left Toronto at 9:30 and arrived shortly before 11 am at the Hamilton International Airport. The weather was perfect, although I needed to ensure I had lots of water and sunscreen for the day. The last time I went to an Air Show was at CFB Trenton in the early 1990’s, when they displayed a Stealth Bomber, surrounded by US Military with guns across their chests.
Sponsored by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM), the air show featured the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster. Dedicated to Pilot Officer Andrew Charles Mynarski, he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for trying to save the rear gunner of the Lancaster even while his clothes were on fire. Mynarski did not survive to tell the tale, but the gunner did.
This is the first time in 10 years the Hamilton Air Show has flown for audiences, the last being in 2001. The post-9/11 security measures made it too difficult to put on. For the first time this year the CWHM hosted the event and opened its doors to those with admission to the show for the event. The heritage museum is in the process of rebuilding several planes from the World Wars, like the Lysander and the Boly. Many other restored aircraft from Canada and the US were there as well, including a restored Memphis Belle, made famous in the 1990 movie.
The planes were set up outside the museum hangar in 2 lines, which made it easy to weave up and down the runway or back and forth between them. Unfortunately, we had to go back to the hangar to catch the buses from their to the main strip to see them fly, because the airport was still active, and Westjet flights were arriving and taking off. By the time we got back to the line ups at noon, they were a lengthy wait. Guests had colour-coded wrist-bands, those who were attending the corporate sponsors as VIP attendees were supposed to have their own lineups with white buses, but many of the other guests had arrived in each line, and didn’t take kindly to people cutting, VIP or not. Part of the problem was the lack of volunteers, the other was their lack of communication: nobody carried around walkie-talkies or cell phones to communicate with decision makers. Once we were at the main strip for the airshow, we went to our sponsor’s tent, where the food and drinks were perfect for the day. Buses dropped people off at the wrong places, but the coordinators were learning as they went. The announcers apologized for the chaos, and promised to fix it for Sunday.
The air show itself was amazing; lots of acrobatics, a parachute opening ceremony with Canadian and American national anthems, formation flights, a simulated dogfight with a Red Baron replica, and even a plane flying upside down to cut a ribbon with his
propellers. On the way back we stopped by the other planes on display, such as a UN cargo plane, a Sabre (I found out later that my uncle flew one), and several helicopters. After our fill of planes 7 hours later, they allowed us to walk back to the hangar, which took all of 5 minutes.
My suggestions for next year’s 40th anniversary show:
More volunteers with communication devices on more of them.
Allow the majority of people to walk over to the airstrip if possible. It shouldn’t be difficult to set up a fenced in path that ensures visitors aren’t wandering around the airfield. The buses should be saved for the elderly, the disabled, and families with small children.
Ensure the First Aid Station remains open throughout the entire event, and place it in a more central location. I overheard complaints about it.
Over all, I had a wonderful time, and took too many pictures. This is the kind of event where a quality dSLR camera comes in handy, and I had some camera envy despite my small but effective PowerShot camera. If you want to see some additional photos, check out my Flickr Folder here.
Finally, I sunburn easily, so I was wearing my large wide-brim hat. I’m sorry to any other photographers if it got in your way.