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The countdown is on for this year’s Airshow London SkyDrive event, which is set to take place Sept. 9 to 11 at London International Airport (YXU). Named Best Airshow in North America by USA Today, Airshow London has been a huge success over the years. Contributing to that success are the incredible air display performers, as well as a logistics team that works tirelessly to plan an event that is not only epic, but overall enjoyable for attendees.
Airshow London’s director of flight operations, Gerry Vanderhoek, said the team behind the show is what “makes the guest experience, the pilot experience, and our sponsors’ experience so great. It’s a veteran crew that put in a lot of hours, and we feel pretty blessed to have that.”
Vanderhoek believes Airshow London differentiates itself because “we are a real military air power themed show,” he said, “and we put a lot of emphasis in trying to bring that theme to our audience.”
This year’s air and ground display lineups have been described as “rare and exciting” — for good reason. With this year being the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force (USAF), Airshow London is thrilled to welcome back the U.S. national air force demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, as headliners for this year’s show. This was an exciting, recent addition to the lineup announced on Aug. 15.
“It’s usually a two-year planning process, and we got [the Thunderbirds] 30 days out [from the show],” said Vanderhoek. “So, they’ve placed a lot of trust in our ability to execute on what it takes for them to perform here.”
Moreover, Airshow London will also welcome back the USAF F-22 Raptor Demo Team – which is sure to “amaze and stun the crowds,” said Vanderhoek.
A “side theme” for this year’s show “is the F-15 Eagle’s 50th anniversary,” he added. “We’re hosting what’s called an Eagle’s Nest,” where 10 F-15Es will be on display in the air and on the ground.
Other air display performers include the USAF E-3 Sentry, MC-130J Commando, a B-2 Spirit, a B-17, and much more. Vanderhoek said a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey will be doing a modified demonstration during the show, too.
The most recent air display performers to be added to the lineup, which Vanderhoek noted was just announced this week, are two F-35s from Nellis Air Force Base.
The CF-18 Demo Team — a fan favorite — will add some “Canadian flavor” to the show, said Vanderhoek. He also emphasized that the Royal Canadian Air Force is bringing the majority of its inventory to the airshow this year, so attendees “will be able to see everything Canada has to offer.”
Unfortunately, the CF Snowbirds announced on Sept. 1 that they will no longer be performing at Airshow London, due to the operational pause that was ordered on the team’s CT-114 Tutor fleet on Aug. 10. The operational pause came after a Tutor jet experienced an “emergency” during takeoff in early August. The pilot did not sustain any injuries, and the incident is currently under investigation.
As for the ground display at this year’s Airshow London, it appears that attendees will have no shortage of aircraft to explore. Some of the aircraft set to be on static display include the P-8A Poseidon, KC-10 Extender, CC-177 Globemaster III, C-5M Super Galaxy, two KC-135 Stratotankers, and several F-16 Fighting Falcons. Showgoers will have the opportunity to get up close to the aircraft and even meet the crews.
Each year, Vanderhoek is responsible for booking the air display performers and ground display aircraft. When asked how he manages to pull it off, he said “a can-do, never-give-up attitude. It takes a lot of patience and persistence.”
This year’s show will see the return of the drive-in format, which was first introduced in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. The drive-in was such a success that Airshow London brought it back for the 2021 show, and again this year. Guests will be directed to their own 20- by 25-foot parking site to watch the show tailgate style.
“It’s nice to be able to sit and enjoy the show from your car, and to have all of those comforts of home — especially for families and those with young kids,” said Vanderhoek. “It’s actually also really great from a safety perspective. . . . If there’s inclement weather, we just have to tell people to take shelter in their car.”
New to the show this year is a hop-on hop-off trolley, which showgoers will be able to catch to make their way over to the static display, and then back to their car. “It almost gives you that VIP feel,” said Vanderhoek. “You don’t have to walk a mile to an airplane.”
Food vendors will also be onsite this year, though guests will be permitted to bring their own food and drinks if they wish.
As press time, tickets for Airshow London were 95 percent sold. The Saturday and Sunday of the show are completely sold out, but there are still some tickets available for Friday. According to Vanderhoek, a sold-out show would translate to roughly 2,500 cars and 10,000 attendees per day.
Tickets can be purchased at https://airshowlondon.com/.