ALBERTA INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW 2021 - Villeneuve Airport / Canada

Update: 2020/08/27  by Shawn Clish / CHK6

On August 21 and 22, 2021, the Alberta International Airshow was held at the Villeneuve Airport (CZVL) just northwest of Edmonton. This was the fourth edition of this event but the first since 2018 as the show was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus and two years ago due to flooding. While planning had been going on since last season, it was only announced on July 23 that approval from the government had been received and tickets weren’t released until July 27. With less than a month to finalize many details, the organizers deserve an immense amount of credit for the show they presented. They recognized a desire in their local community for an air show and they were proven correct as approximately 25.000 people visited the show on Saturday August 21. The flying display was fantastic and including performances by the Boeing CF-18 Demonstration Team, the Republic A-10C THUNDERBOLT II Demonstration Team, the Boing EA-18G GROWLER Legacy Flight Team and the British Army’s Parachute Regiment Display Team, the Red Devils. There was also a small static display of about a dozen planes that included a US Air Force C-130H with no unit markings, a lovely Viking Twin Otter and Royal Canadian Air Force participation in the form of two CT-156 HARVARD IIs and two CF-188 HORNETS.  The Hornets were an interesting pair as both are former Royal Australian Air Force jets that were purchased by the Canadian government in 2019.

Boeing CF-188 HORNET - © by Shawn Clish
Fairchild Republic A-10C THUNDERBOLT II - © by Shawn Clish

Villeneuve Airport is actually a wonderful venue for an air show.  Although the main runway is only 5001’ long and therefore unable to accommodate all of the military jets performing in the show, the Boeing CF-18 HORNET and Fairchild Republic A-10 THUNDERBOLT II were able to stage out of CZVL.  General admission seating is located in the northwest section of the field offering good proximity to the main show line along Runway 08-26. Spectators are also close to the aircraft as they taxi to and from the runway on either Alpha or Bravo as well as being right next to the hot ramp and static display which is located along Runway 16-34.  For photography, the location is ideal as the sun is behind the crowd for the entirety of the show. 

Captain Dan ‘Delouse’ Deluce seemed to have a lot of extra fuel to burn due to his short flight from the Edmonton International Airport and proceeded to do at least six passes before a full stop landing

S. Clish
Boeing CF-188 HORNET - © by Shawn Clish
Boeing CF-188 HORNET - © by Shawn Clish

Fortunately, I was on a family vacation in nearby Banff National Park and was very excited at the opportunity to make the four hour drive to the show. Weekend forecasts called for overcast skies and possible showers but I took a chance and attended the event on Saturday August 21. Gates opened at 10am and there was a small rush to place chairs in the general admission section to enjoy unobstructed views at the front. After taking a few photos of the static displays I noticed the CF-18 ground crew preparing for an arrival and found an uncongested spot along the fence line to photograph the Operation INSPIRATION Demo Hornet. Captain Dan ‘Delouse’ Deluce seemed to have a lot of extra fuel to burn due to his short flight from the Edmonton International Airport and proceeded to do at least six passes before a full stop landing. This mini-display was quite fortuitous as the conditions were perfect during the Hornet’s arrival. It was quite the contrast to the dark, overcast skies that were present during the team’s official display that closed the show.

Lockheed Martin C-130J SUPER HERCULES - © by Shawn Clish
Boeing EA-18G GROWLER - © by Shawn Clish

It wasn’t long after the CF-18 arrived that the show officially started with the Red Devils jumping from a 317th Airlift Wing Lockheed C-130J SUPER HERCULES out of Dyess AFB, Texas. During their display, the national anthems of Great Britain, the United States and Canada were all played as flags were flown beneath the paratroopers to honour the three nations participating in the flying program. This was the team’s first time back in Canada in over 25 years and their first time jumping in Alberta. The Red Devils were followed by Kyle Fowler performing in his unique looking Long EZ. It was the fourth time I had witnessed Kyle fly this season and it was a pleasure to watch him perform in his home province. It was also my fourth opportunity to enjoy the Growler Legacy Team and the second time for their two-ship demo. This is a very enjoyable, high energy routine that features multiple formation passes, a few sneak passes, loads of afterburner and in true Navy style, a carrier break followed by a touch and go.

Four Air Tractor AT-802 FIRE BOSS amphibious airtankers flew in trail of the Caravan and conducted a water drop on their first pass

Shawn Clish
Air Tractor AT-802 FIRE BOSS - © by Shawn Clish
Fairchild Republic A-10C THUNDERBOLT II - © by Shawn Clish

A group of five Conair aerial firefighters performed next.  They were lead by a Cessna 208B CARAVAN which operates as a command and control platform when attacking a forest fire.  Four Air Tractor AT-802 FIRE BOSS amphibious airtankers flew in trail of the Caravan and conducted a water drop on their first pass.  From aircraft filled with water to one that is full of extra fuel, a Boeing KC-135R STRATOTANKER from the 434th Air Refuelling Wing followed, doing two passes with the boom extended.
The aircraft I was most excited to see was the specially painted Republic A-10C WARTHOG. This year, the team chose to paint an aircraft in the medium green, dark green and dark tan camouflage that was worn by Republic F-105 THUNDERCHIEF during the Vietnam War. The front right side of the jet honours the names of the 97 Airmen assigned to the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing that were either lost or taken prisoner in Southeast Asia. Although the grey backup jet flew during the practice session, on Saturday, Captain Haden ‘Gator’ Fullam flew the Heritage jet in a wonderfully dynamic display which made my the trip up from Banff a resounding success

Pitts S-2S SPECIAL / Bill Carter - © by Shawn Clish
British Army Red Devils - © by Shawn Clish

Although the sky clouded over and the light faded, there were still some fun feats of airmanship from some of the aerobatic participants. I used to see Bill Carter perform regularly at the London International Air Show but probably have not seen his routine in over 20 years. I’m pretty sure I even held a pole in the late 1990s during his trademark inverted ribbon cut, a feat that he accomplished again on Saturday. Kyle Fowler then performed for a second time to fly underneath a motorcycle jumping over Runway 26, a first of its kind stunt at an air show in Canada. The final display I enjoyed was the Yellow Thunder Formation Aerobatic Team, comprised of David and Drew Watson flying North American Harvards.  

With the sun obscured by a thick grey sky I decided to cut my time short at Villeneuve. I had already watched the final two acts, the Red Devils and the CF-18, in the beautiful light that shone on the field all morning and for the first half of the afternoon. My four hour drive back to Banff was made in very high spirits as I considered the day a wonderful triumph. The organizers should be very proud of their accomplishment as they overcame a difficult set of obstacles in a compressed amount of time and presented an incredible show for a large crowd of Alberta aviation enthusiasts. Hopefully their plans to continue to develop the show will allow me to return in the future as the layout at Villeneuve Airport is very photographer friendly and the proximity to Edmonton makes travel uncomplicated. 

Special thanks to Dean and Meagan for allowing me to cover the show on behalf of Checksix.

Shawn Clish / CHK6

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