The Abbotsford International Airshow Society is quite honoured to have a spectacular lineup of military and civilian aviation. We have worked hard to successfully attract a wide spectrum of aviation favourites for our 50th Anniversary show, which will make it certainly one of the best airshow in Canada and among the handful of top shows in North America this year.
Recently, we have been fielding questions as to why we are not able to secure more military performers, particularly from the United States. Let us outline some of the challenges faced in the airshow industry in this era of restrictive military budgets.
There is a process whereby airshow committees must submit their "wish list" to each of the respective military services but that does not necessarily guarantee a booking. The big challenge is that all services in Canada and the US are facing major budget cutbacks in reaction to the economy, which translates into fewer flying hours available. Airshow participation is a low priority tasking, measured against operations and training, both at home and abroad. For example, the USAF made the decision last December to stand down five of their six single-ship demo teams (the A-10 East & West, F-16 East & West, and the F-15E Strike Eagle) leaving only the F-22 Raptor, which is already impacted with a reduced show schedule compared to previous years.
On a positive side, we are thrilled to have the USAF's premier airshow asset, the Thunderbirds, to help celebrate our 50th anniversary show, as well as the US Navy's Super Hornet demo team, the US Coast Guard Dolphin helicopter, and the Heritage Flight formation consisting of a USAF F-16 and a Second World War warbird.
In fact, the Heritage Flight program was able to continue after the USAF single-ship demos were stood down because certain pilots, many of whom have previous single ship training and experience, were designated to the program. We are very fortunate to have one such aircraft here for our show weekend.
This year, we have had several discussions to secure foreign military service aircraft including Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Russia, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Brazil. Again, budget cutbacks are the leading constraint facing these air forces. Fortunately, we did secure a Dutch KDC-10 as part of the 2012 static line-up. However, for the majority, consideration must be given mainly to military aircraft based here in North America and are on a training assignment as it gives them more leverage to participate in a show. We would love to once again feature the USMC Harrier. However, the US Harrier fleet has been considerably reduced performing in fewer and fewer shows with the majority reserved for US show sites, understandably.
Fans and supporters of the Abbotsford International Airshow, we feel your frustration as we field your questions. Hopefully, this brief insight into today’s airshow industry will shed more light on the difficulties that we are encountering, much the same as most other North American shows. Fortunately, AIAS has maintained a great relationship over the years with both Canadian and US military services and we will continue to build on these relationships as we navigate through the new airshow environment.