Speed and Skills!

report by: Jean-François Laissus
photographer: Pierre-Mathieu Fortin

Fierce winds and chilly temperatures were not enough to stop more than 85,000 people from attending the 1997 Montreal Air Show. Held at Mirabel International Airport, north of Montreal on May 17 and 18. The U.S Navy flight demonstration team Blue Angels, were the highlight of this years event, where speed and skills met for thousands of delighted air show fans!.

AirShow organizers were able to assemble more than 60 planes for static display. Many aviation types were represented. From the Hawkeye AWACS, to the *HUGE* C-5 Galaxy transport, the menu of aircraft brought to the show was quite complete. Several fighter types flew in, including the F-18 Hornet, F-14 Tomcat, and F-16 Falcon. Just a few of the other planes present were the venerable Boeing B-52, C-130 Hercules, and the only other flying Lockheed Electra (besides the one Linda Finch was using). The variety and number of planes exhibited, as well as the many aerobatic demonstrations, served to keep the crowd spellbound!

Visitors could take a close look at the aircraft, and use some imaginative installations to take a look inside some of the cockpits. Walk-through tours on the tankers and transport aircraft were also a popular attraction. But to some, the high point of the day was getting to talk with some of the pilots and crewmembers of the many aircraft on display. Show visitors were able to share their curiosity, and passion for flying, with the highly-trained crews of these technical wonders. Discussing the art of day and night carrier-landings with a US Navy F-14 Tomcat aviator, the finer points of moving cargo on the C-5 Galaxy, or air to air refueling, is not something most of us get to do every day! The dedication and professionalism of these men and women is quite apparent.

Despite the record attendance at the show, crowd movement was handled very well and few delays were experienced accessing the viewing areas. The layout of the air show was designed with this in mind, the event organizers did a great job making it all work . Display aircraft were parked along a mile-long runway and on a very wide adjacent tarmac. Tents were set up next to the runway with food services and, of course, souvenirs. Blue Angels caps, t-shirts, pins and posters were very hot items during the two show days! There was also, a very interesting technological exhibition was set up in the huge Air Transat maintenance hangar close to the runway. Many were able to learn more about the wonderful world of aviation and aeronautics while warming up!

Starting at noon, one flight demonstration followed one another at a frantic pace. This theme of this years show was "Speed and Skills".

Captain Steve Langille of the Royal Canadian Air Force, offered an incredible performance with his CF-18. The aerobatic demonstration he performed was beautifully excuted! Many difficult moves were flown, accompanied by the crackling thunder of the CF-18 in full afterburner! Next up was Captain Glen "Lunar" Lawson, from the US Air Force, 9th Demonstration Team, who dazzled the crowd with breathtaking maneuvers with his F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Mirabel International Airport sky was torn apart by the roar of two of the most beautiful and powerful modern fighters. If you've not been to an airshow lately and heard, close up, the sound of a modern fighter jet in full afterburner......you must go soon!

The excitement continued to build as the Northern Lights, the only five-aircraft civilian aerobatics team in North America, performed their all-new show. Spins, rolls, shoulder rolls, loops, Immelmanns and half-Cubans were sequenced in a combination of fast-paced opposing and synchronized solo maneuvers, as well as slower and more gracious formation maneuvers. No wonder this team is already enjoying a world-wide reputation.

Spectators were treated to several more breathtaking presentations (including an impressive Search and Rescue demonstration with a Canadian Griffon helicopter and exciting maneuvers by a venerable CT-133 Silver Star - better know as "T-bird"). But excitement was at its peak when the official narrator announced what everyone had been waiting to see : The Blue Angels and their superb navy blue and bright yellow F-18s!

The Blue Angels, on the occasion of their only performance outside the United States this year, gave a new meaning to skill, precision and boldness. Each split at more than 1,600 km/h was greeted by the crowd with exclamations and thunderous applause. FlightLine will feature comprehensive coverage of this performance in an upcoming issue, including an exclusive interview with Lieutenant Ryan Scholl, Blue Angels lead solo performer-Blue Five!

After the performance, the crowd witnessed the amazing formation landing of the Blue Angels pilots. This minutely detailed choreography aroused cheers from the appreciative fans. Later the pilots met the fans to sign programs and pamphlets. Those present at the signing session, both young and old, could only look on with admiration and envy at these brave and skilled Naval Aviators! These men truly are some of America's finest!

Thanks to Mr.Pierre Patry, Air Show Director, and Ms. Isabelle Dessureault, public relations agent for the 1997 Edition of the Montreal Air Show! FlightLine was able to enjoy extensive access to the aircraft and pilots. In future updates of FlightLine, we will share much of what we were allowed to experience.

The 1997 Montreal Air Show has been tremendously successful! Record crowds, record number of aircraft, record number of participating pilots: In short, this event truly deserves its title of most important Air Show in Canada. The organizers and volunteers did a fantastic job in assembling the aircraft, performers, and facilities for this show! We can only anxiously wait for next year's edition!

(editors note: Jean-François has much to tell us of his time at this event. FlightLine will feature all of it! One of the most interesting things he has to share with us is his time in the right front seat of some *VERY* rare historical aviation territory. There are but two flying examples of the plane Emelia Earhart attempted her flight around the world in. One of them was busy recreating that flight. Jean-François tells us of his "stick time" in the other one.)

FlightLine has much more coming... Be sure to bookmark this site! Better yet....make us your starting home page!

[An Afternoon With The Blue Angels-Part One-]