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On Sept. 19, the Dam Pub of Thornbury, Ont., sponsored a private airshow for aviation photographers, enthusiasts and social media influencers, dubbed the “Ramp Rats Reunion.” Gordon Price loves to perform at airshows in his 450-horsepower YAK-50 prototype, the same aircraft he purchased from Yakovlev Design Bureau in 1972. Since COVID-19 put a stop to almost all airshows in 2020, Price worked with local authorities to find a way to host an airshow at Owen Sound’s Billy Bishop Airport.
The event was limited to 100 people, including volunteers and safety personnel. David White Airshows helped obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate, mapped out the airshow box, organized rescue resources and air bossed the event. Everyone onsite had to wear face masks and frequently sanitize their hands, as well as adhere to current physical distancing protocols.
Guests were treated to food with beer and wine samplings from the family-owned Dam Pub Restaurant. Along with Price and the YAK-50, Dave Hewitt, who is a member of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team, flew his Rumbling Radials Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor in the show.
Also in the line-up was Marco Rusconi, ex-RCAF Snowbird pilot and Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team pilot, flying his 1952 Harvard Mk.4 in a brilliant low-level aerobatic routine. Price, not to be outdone by the younger guys, pushed his YAK-50 to 7.5G manoeuvres in a very tight routine that demonstrated the type’s power and handling characteristics. Pilot Trevor Raferty attended with his newly built Pitts 12 and was hoping to fly in the show, but scheduling prevented him from renewing his Aerobatic Competency Evaluation (ACE) card that would allow him to perform in front of invited guests. It should be noted that all performers flew at their own expense to share in the financial burden of having such a show.
The intimate show was well received. With the 2021 airshow season just over six months away, the show could serve as a template for future smaller and more intimate airshows.
The second and third weekends of September saw very different types of airshows in Ontario. Airshow London SkyDrive was very successful at holding a socially distant, “full-size” drive-in airshow. Then, the much smaller and more intimate show held at Owen Sound.
While Ontario has an abundance of airshow performers and flying museums, it’s possible 2021 will see a few more smaller shows. A five-hour event with three-to-four acts and limited spectators with some local sponsors could be well received by aviation enthusiasts and families looking for outdoor entertainment.