By Lethbridge Herald on July 16, 2017.
Crowds drawn to static displays and performances
With dozens of static display planes and helicopters available to be explored alongside live aerial performances, the Lethbridge International Airshow saw healthy crowds on Saturday before shutting down early due to inclement weather.
Patrons who can show proof of purchase of a Saturday admission will be given a general admission at the gate for today’s performance, air show organizers announced early last evening on the event Facebook page.
Cpt. Geoff Martin of the 408 tactical helicopter squadron was one of a group of airmen showing off a CH-146 Griffon helicopter out of Edmonton.
“The 408 exists to provide tactical aviation support to the army,” said Martin. “We’re an Air Force asset that provides support to the Army.”
He said the primary job of the medium utility helicopter is to move “people and stuff,” provide air mobility, insert small teams to do different army-level tasks, and sling and provide long-term support such as food and fuel.
“Even in the north sometimes we can support the Canadian Rangers, by moving snowmobiles and stuff like that.”
The Griffon also provides firepower, including C6 heavy machine guns mounted on the sides of the helicopter, to provide offensive and defensive support for itself and for people on the ground.
The helicopter was a popular fixture on Saturday, and seemed to be a big hit with children.
“It’s been fantastic ever since we arrived yesterday,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of interest in what we do as military aviators, and in helicopter flying specifically.
“From my own personal experience, flying is supercool. And it’s a very inspirational thing to watch.”
He said the demonstrations, and even just repositioning the helicopter to different areas around the air show has caused a lot of interest.
“It is inspirational to see,” he said. “And it is an achievable goal that maybe you can do yourself,” he said. “And getting a chance to sit in the seats and come talk to us, I think, is a really cool opportunity for young people.”
Getting up close to this type of hardware and the pilots who flying it can be a rare experience. Martin said with the numerous demands placed on the 408, between overseas operations and domestical firefighting in B.C., it isn’t often civilians get the chance to see the helicopter up close.
“At any given time, we have quite a number of aircraft, and quite a number of crews engaged in service to Canadians and Canadian foreign policy.
Ultimately, Martin said these public events serve a vital role connecting the military with civilian Canadians.
“The bottom line is we serve Canadians,” he said. “We exist to serve every Canadian, both domestically and internationally. So this is an opportunity for people to see and touch and talk about the things we do and the aircraft we have.
“Every single person has the right to engage with us directly, see what we do, and talk to us.
“And I’m a pilot today because I got to talk to these pilots when I was a kid, and really realize how cool it was and what an opportunity it is to do something you love in service of others.”
Malcolm Cheesman was at the air show on Saturday with his two-year-old son and said it was the first opportunity for his child to check out the annual event.
“He’s fascinated by them in the sky all the time,” he said. “So it’s great for him to come and see them up close.”
Cheesman said he has been to the show in the past but his son has really enjoyed his first time. They were taking a break from the early afternoon heat by sitting in the shadow of a wing from a massive USAF C-17.
“It’s awesome, this works perfect,” he said. “Those are some big wings.”
“We’re just taking it all in,” he said. “Whatever attracts his mind.”
The Lethbridge International Air Show runs today beginning at 9 a.m.
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