Canadian International Air Show marks final performance for Gord Price

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | September 7, 2023

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 16 seconds.

In a captivating finale that marked the end of an extraordinary career in aviation, 81-year-old Gord Price brought his iconic Yak-50 to its last aerial performance this past Labour Day weekend at the Canadian International Air Show (CIAS), held annually along Toronto’s waterfront.

Price is known as one of Canada’s premiere aerobatic airshow acts, and his retirement signifies the conclusion of a more than 60-year career in aviation — at least 20 of which were dedicated to aerobatic flying.

Price with his Yak-50 at Billy Bishop Airport on Sept. 4, 2023. Kevin Prentice Photo

His flying days began in the summer of 1958, after receiving an Air Cadet scholarship. Just two years later, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) became Price’s home, and he went on to fly the CF-104 Starfighter. After six years in the air force, Price transitioned to commercial aviation, flying a variety of different aircraft types for Air Canada. He spent 36 years with Canada’s flag carrier, retiring from the Boeing 747-400 in 2001.

During his career with Air Canada, Price discovered his passion for light aircraft, having built several aerobatic planes in the late ‘70s — including a Pitts S-1, which he flew in the 1980 World Aerobatic Championships.

Price flying his final airshow performance at the 2023 CIAS. Andy Cline Photo

Price is a Canadian Unlimited Aerobatic Champion and represented Canada at three World Aerobatic Championships. He has performed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun, and is the founder of Ultimate Aircraft Corp, which produced the Ultimate 10-100, 10-200, and 10-300 series of aircraft — featuring various aerodynamic improvements over the Pitts.

After flying in Toronto’s CNE Airshow (now CIAS) in 1988, Price took a 24-year sabbatical from airshow aerobatic flying to focus on his business. He returned to the airshow circuit in 2012 with the Yak-50.

Price and his Yak-50 receive a water salute at CYTZ. Andy Cline Photo

Price’s journey with the 1972 prototype Yakovlev Yak-50 began in May 2011 when he acquired the aircraft. Over the following year, he developed an aerobatic routine that was sure to wow airshow audiences. In 2017, Price upped his game by outfitting his Yak-50 with a 435-horsepower Vedeneyev M14P engine.

The Yak-50 is sponsored by Price’s family business, The Dam Gastro Pub, which was established in 2005 in Meaford, Ont. Price made sure to honour his Scottish heritage through his flying displays, which included music featuring traditional pub songs complete with bagpipes.

Price being interviewed by CP24 at Billy Bishop Airport. Kevin Prentice Photo

He has appeared in every Canadian International Air Show since 2017, and this year’s show was proud to host him for his grand finale on Sept. 4.

It was an oppressively hot day — over 40 C on the ramp at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The aerobatic performers stayed in the air-conditioned lounge and kept their planes hangared as long as possible before it was their time to fly.

For Price, it was a tough day — both physically and emotionally. As he stepped down from the Yak after his final airshow performance, he said, “You know, I think I might keep going… But it’s time.”

Price is ending his aviation career on a high note. Andy Cline Photo

Price’s determination to leave on a high note was evident; it was time to hang up his spurs — a nod to the mandatory ejection seat device used in the CF-104. That patch still adorns his flight suit today, along with his RCAF Wings.

Read more about Gord Price here.

With files from Andy Cline

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