2020 airshow season takes shape in Las Vegas

While many people might identify their birthday or Christmas as the day they most associate with wonderful surprises, in the Canadian airshow community that day is undoubtedly “team announcement” day at the annual International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) convention, held in Las Vegas, Nev. This year, that day was Dec. 10.

2020 will be the CF Snowbirds' Golden Anniversary year, marking the team's 50th performance season. Mike Reyno Photo
2020 will be the CF Snowbirds’ Golden Anniversary year, marking the team’s 50th performance season. Mike Reyno Photo
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Each December, ICAS brings military and civilian airshow performers, event organizers and supporting service providers from all around the world under one roof (over 1,600 registrants this year) to plan, arrange and learn about all that is needed to establish a strong foundation for the next performance season. Canadian talent is loud and proud amongst the masses, ranging from the iconic and internationally sought after Canadian Forces (CF) Snowbirds and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Demonstration Team, to newer (but with well experienced pilots) acts such as the Northern Stars (led by Brent Handy) and the ACM Warbirds of Canada (led by Mike Bourget).

Announcement-wise, 2020 is going to be a fantastic year for Canadian aviation enthusiasts. The Snowbirds, entering their special Golden Anniversary year (50th performance season) announced that they will be headed north to perform in Yellowknife, N.W.T. (July 11-12) and in Whitehorse, Yukon (July 15), in addition to also flying a full schedule across the provinces and many U.S. states (see here). Of note, their first scheduled shows are listed as tentative, and are dependent on the readiness of the team following anticipated training. Unique to this year, their off-season training was delayed from starting as the CT-114 Tutor fleet had been on an operational pause since Snowbird 5 was forced to eject prior to an air show at the Atlanta Speedway on October 13, 2019. The squadron was returned to its full operational state on December 5, which has allowed training flights to begin.

ICAS president John Cudahy welcomes air show professionals from around the world during the opening minutes of the first general session of the ICAS 2019 Convention. Sean Costello Photo
ICAS president John Cudahy welcomes air show professionals from around the world during the opening minutes of the first general session of the ICAS 2019 Convention. Sean Costello Photo

On the CF-18 Demonstration team front, Captain Dan “Delouse” Deluce was announced as this year’s demo pilot, hailing from 419 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alta. Speaking with Skies on the ICAS show floor, he shared that his interest in flight and aviation began very early in life, having been born into a family of aviators – including his grandfather, who flew Hawker Hurricanes on patrol for German U-Boats, and his father who flew commercial aircraft, among many others.

Currently, he is focused on learning the ropes from those who have come before him, not only from previous RCAF demonstration pilots but also from other airshow performers at ICAS: “One thing that came up yesterday, it was interesting for me, was talking about flying inverted, low level – that is something that I’ve never done, and it’s probably something that will be uncomfortable at first, but I’m sure it will become more comfortable over time,” said Deluce. The team announced 17 performances dates across Canada, with none currently scheduled south of the border; the theme for 2020 is slated to be announced in the New Year.

In addition to the above, many American military teams confirmed that they would be coming to ignite the dreams and minds of Canadians young and old, including:

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  • USAF Thunderbirds (London, Ont., Sept. 12-13);
  • USAF A-10 Warthog (Edmonton, Alta., Aug. 15-16 and Toronto, Ont., Sept. 5-7);
  • US Navy Blue Angels (Cold Lake, Alta., July 18-19; and
  • USAF F-22 Demo Team (Abbotsford, B.C., Aug. 8-9).
Brent Handy, left, and Todd Farrell of the Northern Stars Aeroteam, are just two of many Canadian air show performers attending the ICAS 2019 Convention in Las Vegas, Nev. Sean Costello Photo

No Canadian dates were announced for the F-16, F-35, MV-22 or AV-8B demonstration teams.

Also present at ICAS are members of the SkyHawks, Canada’s parachute display team. Capt Derek Reid shared that while a number of performances in the coming year will indeed occur at Canadian airshows, the nature of the SkyHawks demonstration means that they can also make plans to “drop in” on many other types of community events as well.

“As we finalize our 2020 schedule for release in the spring, we’re looking forward to including some new locations to demonstrate the skills and opportunities within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), to groups who might otherwise never have an opportunity to see CAF members in action,” said Reid.

Of note for any aspiring skydivers out there: Even though the SkyHawks fall under the command of the Canadian Army, parachutists can apply to be considered from any CAF trade, in any of the three elements – Navy, Army or Air Force.

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