Air show wows public

photo by Cpl. Manuela Berger, Department of National Defence
Capt. Matthew Kutryk – seen in this photo from Cold Lake, Alta., in April – piloted the CF-18 demonstration jet that joined the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour over Hay River on July 8.

If one thing became clear on July 8, it’s that a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jet knows how to make an entrance.

As hundreds were gathered at the Hay River Beach for the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017, the CF-18 suddenly and surprisingly roared overhead from behind and headed out over Great Slave Lake.

“I loved when the jet made its entrance,” said Sandy Cowger.

The jet was a special guest at the air show, which is crossing Northern Canada this year to celebrate Canada 150. The CF-18 has performed at just a few stops on the tour.

The Hub spoke to Capt. Matthew Kutryk, the pilot of the CF-188 Hornet – or CF-18 as it is popularly known – when he landed in Churchill, Man., while refuelling on his way to Yellowknife from Quebec the day before the Hay River show.

Kutryk said he is excited, humbled and proud to fly the demonstration jet, which has special colours featuring the Canada 150 logo.

“It brings everyone in Canada together,” he said. “The jet looks pretty sharp with the red paintjob and it’s a huge theme. Canada 150, it’s a pretty big deal.”

Only one pilot is selected to fly the demonstration jet each year.

“We’re trying to show the aerodynamic capabilities of the CF-18, which is Canada’s frontline fighter plane,” said Kutryk of the show, noting there are lots of loops and rolls.

Plus, there is ample demonstration of the jet’s power.

“Certain parts of the show are going to be flown right up to the speed of sound,” said Kutryk. “We don’t go supersonic because the sonic boom can cause problems with car alarms.”

The CF-18 flew from Yellowknife to perform the show in Hay River and then returned to the capital city.

Kutryk said such “off-site” shows are not unusual.

“There’s a lot of opportunities we have where we don’t have landing surfaces that meet the somewhat substantial requirements of the F-18,” he said. “Hay River is one of those examples.”

Kutyrk said there are a lot of factors in determining whether a CF-18 can land at an airport after a comprehensive assessment.

For Hay River Airport, it was a combination of runway length and surface quality.

The day after flying over Hay River, Kutryk joined the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 show in Yellowknife.

Seven civilian aircraft performed at the air show in Hay River – two Harvards; a Sukhoi, which is a Russian aircraft; a Rutan Long-EZ, which is a homemade aircraft; a Chinese trainer aircraft called Nanchang; and two Harmon Rockets.

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

Founded by a group of Albertans, the nine-week tour began June 2 in Fort Liard and will end Aug. 31.

“This is show number 62,” said Nancy McClure, executive director and one of the founders of the tour. “Hopefully, we’ll be completing 98 shows by the end of the tour.”

McClure said she founded the tour – with other Rocky Mountain House, Alta., residents chief pilot Ken Fowler and his wife, Wendy – because of a love of aviation and with a goal to try to bring something special to the North, and maybe to educate the south a little more about the North.

“It’s been an emotional journey for all of us,” she said. “I don’t think we expected to be that connected and to feel like we do.”

Fowler, who has been the only pilot at every stop on the tour, said it is a form of aviation entertainment, but it has become about education and connecting with people.

“The further north you get, the people have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “They’ve heard about it. They’ve maybe seen something on YouTube or TV, but they’ve never seen what we do. It’s just blowing them away. And way up in the High Arctic, they’re extremely surprised that they’re even getting such an event.”