CF-18 to perform at air show

photo courtesy of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017
Team Rocket with lead performer Ken Fowler and Eric Hansen in their Harmon Rocket II and F-1 Rocket will be among the performers when the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 stops in Hay River on July 8.

A touring air show set to make a stop in Hay River in July will feature at least six civilian aircraft, and one very special military plane – a fighter jet.

“I can confirm for you that we are excited to announce – and this is the first time that we’ve publicly stated it – that the CF-18 demonstration jet painted in the beautiful Canada 150 colours that will be revealed within about two weeks will be performing in Hay River,” said Nancy McClure, executive director and one of the founders of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017.

The tour will stop in Hay River on July 8 for an air show at the airport.

“The aerobatic routine being done by an F-18 jet is something that your community will be quite in awe of,” McClure told The Hub.

She noted residents may have perhaps seen a CF-18 flying over the community in the past.

“But they will never have seen it doing solo aerobatic manoeuvres above their heads,” she said.

The pilot of the CF-18 demonstration jet this year is Capt. Matthew Kutryk, who was named to the prestigious one-year assignment in January by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Kutryk, who is from Alberta, will wow audiences around North America during the 2017 air show season, flying his specially-painted CF-188 Hornet – or CF-18 as it is popularly known – commemorating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.

“Being selected as the pilot for the CF-18 demonstration team is an incredible honour, especially on such a significant year for Canada,” stated Kutryk in a January news release from the RCAF. “I am excited to travel all across Canada and the United States to show the skill and professionalism of the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

McClure said the CF-18 will perform in only a few other communities during the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017.

“It only performs in a limited number of locations in the country,” she noted. “I would say that the fact that we got it for Hay River, in a small community like that, is very exciting. They only have so many performances that they do in the course of a season, and this year they’re even more in demand because of Canada 150. So I feel pretty excited to be able to share the information that they will be part of the event.”

The CF-18 will also be performing in Yellowknife on July 9.

McClure said there will be a minimum of six civilian aircraft performing aerobatic routines in Hay River.

That will include lead performer Ken Fowler, who flies as part of Team Rocket with fellow pilot Eric Hansen, in their Harmon Rocket II and F-1 Rocket.

Jerzy Strzyz flying a Sukhoi SU-26 will also be in Hay River.

“We certainly know who all of our performers are, but we have not clarified some of the schedule yet,” said McClure. “I can clarify that those two performers will be in Hay River in addition to other civilian performers.”

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 was created to bring Canada 150 celebrations to the North.

Founded by a group of Albertans, it will be a nine-week tour featuring 97 air shows – beginning on June 2 in Fort Liard and ending on Aug. 31 – that will span three territories and two provinces, while covering 16,700 nautical miles.

McClure, an aviator and educator from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., had the idea two years ago of a northern tour to help celebrate Canada 150.

She shared her idea with Fowler of Team Rocket, and he and his wife, Wendy, jumped on board. For two years, McClure and Wendy Fowler have worked on organizing the venture to ensure its success.

McClure, a retired educator, expanded the tour to include an educational component.

“To bring this incredible event north, and not take advantage of its opportunity to use it as a way to educate, inspire and connect North and south, would be a loss to the people of the North,” she stated in a news release. “It’s more than just entertainment. It’s also about dreams and possibilities.”

The North will present the tour with a list of challenges, including unpredictable weather and numerous aviation hurdles, like access to fuel, smoke oil and spare parts, and dealing with many gravel air strips, just to name a few.

The tour will have a core team of air show performers, with others joining where and when they can, in addition to a small support team.

“Flying up north requires a particular pilot skill, as we’ll be flying in some of the most remote areas of the world,” stated Ken Fowler in a news release.

As the tour travels eastward over the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, northern Quebec and Labrador, stops of note include Alert, the world’s most Northern permanently inhabited point, and Baker Lake, the geographic centre of Canada, on July 1.

“This project speaks to everything that should be important to all of us: culture, education, social justice, heritage and national pride,” said McClure. “And it’s all delivered as fun and entertaining air shows to 97 communities using a vehicle so incredibly important to our North: aviation. What better way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday?”

–Paul Bickford