CNE & Air Show
I have been attending the Canadian National Exhibition – the EX – for about fifty years and let me tell you it has changed, and not for the better either. It has been running for over 125 years – since 1879 - and is the largest annual fair in Canada – and the fifth largest in North America.
But it isn’t what it used to be and I am missing things as an old-timer. There used to be free food in the food building. You could admire the latest gadgets and innovative appliances in the better living centre. The old Shell Oil Tower – which later became the Bulova Watch Tower – is gone and so is the cable car that took you back to where you started when your legs gave out, or when you wanted a good birds eye look at the fair beneath you. Gone! So is the "Flyer" – the famous wooden roller coaster. The spectacular Ontario Government Building is now the Liberty Grand and "Medieval Times" now lives in the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies Building. What happened to the Music Building? The Horticulture Building is now the Garden Show in the Trade Centre.
Of course a birds eye view is still possible if you want to spend $30.00 for a seven-minute Helicopter ride around the EX. And if you want to take photos, make sure you get the seat on the right where there is a hole in the window to stick the lens through!
Of course there is still the vibrant and colourful magic of the midway, the carnies, the barkers and the kids to whom that is still an adventure, and where memories are made that could last the rest of their lives. Particularly after dark the many bright and blinking lights are fascinating and beguiling, especially when you are young and are trying to impress a ‘significant other’ with your prowess at the many games of skill, chance or strength, that are offered at the EX.
One of the highlights – and eagerly awaited by many enthusiasts – of the EX is the annual air show that takes place on the last three days of the exhibition. It showcases the development of aviation from the past till now. Da Vincy would be pleasantly surprised at what his ideas from 1487 have become today! His helical screw was never tested, but now use the idea and put wing shaped blades on helicopters. Also featured are the Harvards – this year in a three-plane formation – that bridged the gap between the elementary trainers of the day and thoroughbred fighters such as the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs, over 60 years ago. You can tell the Harvard by the sound, the unmistakable roar created by the tips of its nine-foot prop going supersonic.
The De Havilland Chipmunk –also called the poor man’s Spitfire – that was a real Canadian aviation success, and designed to replace the DH 82 Tiger Moth with a modern trainer, later joined it.
Also on stage over Lake Ontario, also known as the ‘Air Box’, an area in the sky that is 3000 feet wide and 6000 feet high, were many others like the CF18 Hornet, the F22 Raptor, CF104 Starfighter, F86 Sabre, F15 Eagle, F16 Viper (Fighting Falcon), CP104 Aurora, Lancer, Globemaster, Prowler, helicopters and others. Fascinating to watch were the various aerobatic performances by Sean Tucker, in his red Oracle Challenger with the 400 horsepower engine or Rick Volker in his Russian-build Sukhoi SU 26M – one of the world’s premier aerobatic airplane – built in Moscow.
Not to forget Julie Clark in the temperamental Mopar T34. Some of the exciting aerobatic manoeuvres included inside and outside loops, Cuban eights, rolls, tail slides, hammerheads, and yes, Immelmanns – developed in WWI - spins and more, including the famous ‘Lomcevak’ (Czechoslovakian for Headache) where the aircraft practically only hangs on its prop and is allowed to slide backwards and tumbles over to regain airspeed again.
This year was also the introduction of the Porter Airline - stationed at Toronto’s Island Airport – with its Q400 ‘green’ aircraft that is one of the quietest aircraft flying at present. It is being build in Toronto by Bombardier Aerospace and employs astonishing modern technology and engineering to create an airplane with an improved focus on quiet, low-emission, and fuel efficiency.
Large turboprop-powered aircraft like the Q400 are leading the "green" aircraft trend. It employs extraordinary modern technology and engineering designed to meet the requirements of airlines for more seats and greater speed in the high-density regional arena. It is also nearly 50% more fuel-efficient despite the fact that it has twice the take-off power of older turboprop engines. They do this by featuring six-bladed – all composite - Dowty propellers that deliver more thrust and less noise than smaller propellers turning at higher rpms.
Of course the stars of the Air Show will always be the Snowbirds – flying the CT-114 Tutor jet trainers - that signal the end of the show with their magnificent routines and formations and one of the most impressive displays of flying proficiency in the world.
The arrival of the Snowbirds
Scenes from their performance
When, at the end of their performance, they soar off into the wild blue yonder- just 8 feet apart, you can go home, knowing that you witnessed another chapter in aviation history, despite the unfavourable weather conditions.
For all you flying enthusiasts there is good news: A legend is rising from the ashes! The CF105 Avro Arrow returns to life in a hanger in Downsview Park’s Toronto Aerospace Museum, as a full-scale model, and will be unveiled on October 8, at 2:00 p.m. This event will celebrate the 49th anniversary of the rollout of the first Avro Arrow in October 1957, which disappeared without plausible explanation from sonar.
For additional information visit the museum’s website at: www.torontoaerospacemuseum.com.
Unfortunately there was not enough time to visit the magnificent Chinese Lantern Festival in Ontario Place, but it is still on until the 1st of October and really worth visiting: www.chineselanternfestival.ca for more information. r.k.a.
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