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As Top Gun: Maverick continues to set box office records, there’s no doubt the blockbuster movie has rekindled an interest in aviation.
Just ask the folks at the Canadian International Air Show (CIAS), where tickets for the 2022 event have been flying out the door.
“We launched ticket sales on June 17, and sold more in the first week than we did in total for 2019,” said Lori Duthie, CIAS executive director. “There is clearly a demand.”
This year’s airshow, to be held Sept. 3 to 5, will roar back to the Toronto waterfront after two years of scaled back, pandemic-era events. The show is a Labour Day weekend tradition in Canada’s largest city, and this year marks its 73rd anniversary.
There is lots to be excited about, said Duthie.
It’s been 15 years since Canada’s “big three” aerial demonstration teams have been together at the CIAS, but this year will include performances by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, the CF-18 Demonstration Team, and the Canadian Forces Skyhawks military parachute squad.
The U.S. Air Force F-35 fighter jet will be returning this year, thrilling spectators with its agility and raw power. Duthie said arrangements for additional fighter aircraft are being firmed up.
Other confirmed CIAS acts include a U.S. Air Force KC-10 aerial refueling tanker and cargo aircraft, the “Ace Maker” T-33 Shooting Star from California, and Kyle Fowler in his Long-EZ aerobatic aircraft.
“The show will also mark the last aerial performance for 80-year-old Gord Price in his YAK-50 aerobatic aircraft,” said Duthie. “He flew our show back in the ’80s, so it’s a real pleasure to have him perform.”
This year, the action will be narrated by show announcer Ken Hildebrandt, his first time at the CIAS.
While the airshow runs from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Duthie encouraged people to come down earlier for the marine “pre-show,” which will include flyboarding and boat displays.
CIAS tickets are available in two levels: General Admission and Flight Deck.
“General Admission includes airshow center stage seating, access to our Runway of Exhibitors with aviation displays, show narration and commentary, and a meet-and-greet with performers,” explained Duthie. “The Flight Deck includes all of that, plus a fully catered buffet and open bar in a VIP chalet with tables and chairs. They have their own private exhibitors within the chalet, as well as private autograph areas.”
She noted that the Flight Deck is sold out for the Saturday show, with a limited number of tickets available for Sunday and Monday.
All ticketholders will see live footage streamed from Toronto Pearson airport, where larger aircraft will be staged, as well as from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on the island. The CIAS expects to host around 2,500 showgoers each day.
However, Duthie said a million people typically spread out along the shore to watch the show, from Humber Bay to the island airport. Last year, a record number of boats filled the harbor.
“After the airshow, we encourage ticketholders to take advantage of their included same-day access to the CNE,” she said. “Come down for the airshow and then head over the bridge to the CNE.”
Even if they’re not in Toronto, aviation lovers can still watch the Saturday show, with audio and video live streamed on Sept. 3. Narration from the event will be available on every show day. All feeds will be accessible through the show website at www.cias.org.
Duthie, who has been involved with the CIAS for nearly 30 years, said she is thankful for the 125 volunteers who make the airshow possible.
“I remember being that five-year-old watching the show, and I love that it inspires youth to get involved in aviation,” she said. “I see my top responsibility as continuing to create opportunities for youth to see role models in aerospace. They can see different career paths, increase their exposure, and spark that interest.”
More airshow acts will be announced in the weeks leading up to Labour Day weekend.