2004 Cold Lake International Airshow

CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada

July 17-18, 2004

Airshow report written on July 31, 2004.

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One of the premier airshows in Canada for 2004 was the Cold Lake International Airshow, which was one of two events in Canada that a United States jet demonstration team was to perform at (the Blue Angels will be flying with the Snowbirds in Shearwater, Nova Scotia in September), and the Thunderbirds' only appearance in Canada in 2004. 4 Wing Cold Lake does not host an airshow every year or every other year. Their last airshow was in 1999, with the Snowbirds being the highlight. At that time, the base celebrated its 45th Anniversary and the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Air Force. The 2004 show would celebrate the base's 50th Anniversary and the 80th Anniversary of the Canadian Air Force.

Outside of airshows, 4 Wing Cold Lake (or CFB Cold Lake - it is referred to as either way, but the shorthand way of identifying it is to say 4 Wing) hosts Maple Flag, a six-week event where pilots from all over North America, Europe, and even Asia, Asia-Pacific, and Australia get together to practice joint-sortie training exercises over the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. Compared to the similar event at Nellis AFB called Red Flag, Maple Flag brings together more aircraft and aircrews for six weeks. The public is invited to an open house on one of the days and is allowed to watch and photograph the aircraft from a viewing area outside of the base, with its restrictions on photography.

To mark the 50th Anniversary of 4 Wing, an airshow was to be put on, featuring the USAF Thunderbirds and the Canadian Snowbirds, along with performances by the Sky Hawks, an F-15 Eagle, a CF-18 Hornet, and a wide array of civillian performers, warbirds, and even a classic car show - all built into one airshow weekend. In addition, the City of Cold Lake was host to the Big Ass Border Bash, which took place on July 16-17 and featured big name rock bands and singers from North America. I did not go to the concert because concerts are not my thing. Those of you who know me well know that I don't have a favorite band or singer, but I do have a nice collection of mp3s from various artists.

You probably know why I decided to make a trip up to Canada for an airshow, let alone that show being in Alberta and not in Ontario. My dad has set a standard since 1999 to make an airshow trip out beyond my travel limits (in 1999 it was MCAS Miramar, in 2000 it was Andrews AFB - which I can now attend for one day without having to get a hotel, in 2001 it was NAS Lemoore, in 2002 it was Langley AFB - which I went to in 2004 as well, in 2003 it was Dayton, and now 2004 was going to be Cold Lake), and the culmination of the events in Dallas back in December led me to go to Cold Lake, because I was offered a back seat ride in a CF-18. The CF-18 ride was the primary reason for attending, with the airshow being the secondary reason, and fishing the "back door" reason.

My dad and I arrived in Canada on July 12 and make the four-hour drive from Edmonton to Cold Lake, arriving in the early evening. From the standpoint of an American, Canada is full of nothing. I dished out some numbers, and the population of Canada is about 33,000,000 - the same as California - yet, those 33,000,000 are spread all over the entire country, unlike California. If you take a longer route to Cold Lake from Edmonton, you could go miles upon miles without seeing a car pass you! Here in New Jersey, the only time you could get that is by either driving in the middle of the night or by driving on a road that's closed. In Canada, if you had three cars in a row pass you or even a few cars in front or behind you, that would be traffic. In New Jersey, having that situation would give you an easy day of driving.

Tuesday and Wednesday's activities were in regards of my CF-18 flight, while Thursday's activity was primarily fishing on Cold Lake, which brought in about a dozen lake trout (all were released back into the lake, but our guide wanted to keep the largest one, which I caught, for a smoked trout breakfast the following morning). Later that night, I was given some hints as to what would arrive when by one of the finest photographers in Alberta, Bill Gilson, with the main event being a CF-18 demo by Captain "Super Dave" Pletz at about 8:30 in the morning on Friday. My dad and I arrived at 4 Wing at about 8:15, in time to get some photos of the AETE CT-114 and CT-133s that were already out on the static display ramp. The Thunderbirds and the Snowbirds were not parked in front of the main viewing area, but were parked off the secondary viewing area, which was 90º to the left of the main viewing area on the base. To give you an idea of what the static ramp is like, think of it as an upside down L, with the teams parked to the left of the vertical side and the crowd line is just above the horizontal line, which is also parallel to runways 31R/13L and 31L/13R, with runway 4/22 perpendicular to the parallel runways (which was closed all weekend because of the airshow). If you did not know the base that well and wanted to tour the ENTIRE static display several times, you'd have a very long walk ahead of you (even longer than any of the US bases I've been to!).

As promised, Captain "Super Dave" Pletz began his demonstration in the morning, but not at 8:30. The PA system was not running at that time, so this demonstration was going to be unique, since all that would be heard would be the sound of the CF-18. Super Dave also flew the demonstration in the backup demo jet, which happened to be 188926 - the very jet I flew in two days before he flew a demo in it. The weather was clearing somewhat after a brief morning shower, which provided some opportunities for vapor shots of the CF-18B. Super Dave might have flown Friday's demonstration closer to the crowd line than on Saturday and Sunday - probably because there was next to nobody on the base other than those putting it together for the show. He managed to fly a full show despite the cloud cover, which was at a much higher altitude than those you'd find in the Delaware Valley. The only thing I did not like was that he landed on runway 31L, which was way too far from the crowd line to get some decent shots of 188926.

After some time, a CC-130 Hercules, a flight of three CT-155 Hawks plus a solo Hawk, and three elements of two CF-18 Hornets took off to practice the mass attack on 4 Wing. To start off, the six CF-18s joined with the CC-130 for a refueling pass, with two of the Hornets actually hooked up to the CC-130. I took the time to watch the practice, which I regret, since the passes that the Hornets made included quite a bit of vapor! I'll describe the mass attack later on in a lot more detail. Afterwards, aircraft started arriving, including a KC-135 Stratotanker, the backup F-15 demo, a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles, a Chipmunk, and an F-86 Sabre, to name a few. A CC-115 Buffalo took off and the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team performed several jumps while the F-86 was making its way into the static ramp. Rick Svetkoff took the CF-104D Starfighter up for a practice demonstration before it was time for the Thunderbirds to begin their practice.

By the time the Thunderbirds had the stage, there were clouds all around 4 Wing, but not in the immediate aerobatic box, which meant the Thunderbirds could perform their high show. Keep in mind that it was a practice, and the team had taken the slot position and the lead solo positions and replaced the aircraft with F-16Ds, giving two Snowbird pilots a ride with the team during the practice. The Snowbirds were just as nice as they give several Thunderbirds a ride in several Tutors. The Thunderbirds looked real good on practice, with the exception that the right wing, Thunderbird #3, was having problems with the smoke system on his aircraft. After the team finished their actual performance, the diamond stayed in the air to perform a couple more passes and practiced the bomb burst twice - the second bomb burst with only three aircraft, as the slot aircraft landed because of some problems.

After the Thunderbirds, more aircraft arrived, including two pairs of F-16s and a solo F-16, a six-ship flight of CT-155 Hawks departing and coming back after some normal operations, a KC-10 Extender, a pair of A-10 Warthogs, and the realignment of the three CH-146 Griffons to the hot ramp. Bud and Ross Granley performed their dual Yak show, which I will describe later. Rick Svetkoff took the CF-104D Starfighter into the air once again and Captain Joel "Deuce" Hemphill put on an incredible performance with the F-15 Eagle before letting the Snowbirds practice. From what I heard, it was the first time in almost two weeks that the Snowbirds had flown the high show and they looked really good! They even had their public affairs officer announce their practice show, which was a nice change of pace because a young lady usually never announces for a jet team. After the Snowbirds landed, an E-3B Sentry made its arrival and that was time for us to call it quits for the day. A quick peek over at the viewing area just off 31R/13L showed a huge crowd watching the practice show and the arrivals. Friday night was spent with the performers as my dad needed to turn in the photo pass because it would not be needed for the weekend.

On Saturday, the weather looked great - scattered clouds at high altitudes, but mostly around 4 Wing. It was forecasted to be a hot day, with temperatures topping around 30º C. 4Wing had organized a shuttle bus service from different points in Cold Lake North and South to take people to the show, but we opted to go against that, since the buses would start running at around 8:30 am (with the gates opening around 9). We decided to beat the traffic as best as possible, and got to 4 Wing at around 8:15 each day. The Chairman's Guest passes allowed us to park close to the static displays (which should not have happened) and get us on base before the public would be arriving in the masses.

Cold Lake had promised an extensive static display for the show representing aircraft from all eras of aviation, but very few had actually showed up for the airshow. From the early years of aviation were a Stearman, a Fokker Universal, a Harvard, a Chipmunk, PT-19 Cornell, a Beech C-45, and a C-47 Dakota with a Starfighter nose. The Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) had five aircraft on static display - four CT-133 Silver Stars (civil register N613RC/133463, 133648, 133610, and 133599), and one CT-114 Tutor (I did not catch the registration on this aircraft). Three CF-18 Hornets were on static display - 188720 (the Tiger), 188918 (a two-seater), and 188789 (which had its refueling probe displayed on Sunday). 188720 and 188918 represented 410 Squadron and 188780 represented 416 Squadron. A CT-155 Hawk (155219) and a CT-156 Harvard II (156125) rounded out the Canadian Forces aircraft. The United States Navy brought five aircraft - a pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets from VFA-2 in NAS Lemoore in California, an S-3 Viking from NAS North Island in California, a C-12B Huron, and a P-3C Orion from NAS Whidbey Island in Washington.

The United States Air Force brought in the most aircraft, represented by a C-141B Starlifter from McGuire AFB in New Jersey, a KC-10A Extender from Travis AFB in California, a KC-135R Stratotanker from Fairchild AFB in Washington, an E-3B Sentry from Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, a pair of F-16C Fighting Falcons from Nellis AFB in Nevada (painted in aggressor markings), a pair of F-16C Fighting Falcons from the New York Air National Guard in Syracuse, a single F-16A Fighting Falcon from the North Dakota Air National Guard, a pair of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the Idaho Air National Guard, and a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. It was at the time that I was touring the static display that the Thunderbirds decided to perform their engine run and sound check.

Civillian owned aircraft included a Gazelle, a Canadian F-86 Sabre, an aggressor A-4 Skyhawk, a Fokker F28 operated by Canadian North, a Boeing 737-200 from WestJet (which flew a charter flight from Edmonton to the show!), a pair of Fairchild Metro 23s, a trio of Beech Super KingAirs, a trio of Beech KingAir 90s from Aerocharters.com plus another KingAir 90, a Piaggio P-180 Avanti, a Pilatus PC12, a Cessna 172, and a Ryan Navion (I did not recognize it at first because I am used to seeing Navions in military paint jobs). On Saturday, one L-39 Albatross was on static display, but the next day it would be joined by another two. Two helicopters that were operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force were also on hand, but like most unusual helicopters (to me), I could not identify what they were. You need to do a lot of walking to cover the entire static display from one end to the other!

The flying display started earlier than the 11:00 I had actually hoped for. Pitch Molnar went up early and practiced in his Extra 300 for a little while before landing. For the first time in a very long time (that I can remember), an airshow actually featured model rocketry. Several rockets powered by D, E, F, and G engines were launched and recovered by their owners without any problems. I was still walking the static displays at this time and it seemed the highest any of the rockets went was about 1,000 feet. After the rockets were recovered and removed from the active taxiway, it was time for a slew of warbirds to take to the air. A Fokker Universal, PT-17 Stearman, DeHavilland Chipmunk, and a Harvard took to the sky and performed several passes over the show area in review.

I forget the timing at this moment because I did not shoot video of the radio controlled aircraft, but either before they flew or after they flew, a CC-115 Buffalo took to the skies with the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team on board for their jump. In my opinion, the Buffalo redefines the short takeoff as it took off within 1,000 feet. Several radio controlled aircraft took to the air, including a trainer, a Spitfire, several aerobatic aircraft (they were really designed for aerobatics!), a helicopter, and a turbine-powered CF-18 Hornet were among those that flew. The CF-18 was painted up in a special paint scheme that represented the 75th Anniversary of the Canadian Air Force, which was in 1999 (the paint scheme is also symbolic of the CF-18 demo jet from 410 Squadron in 1999).

After the Buffalo made a few more passes before beginning a gradual climb to over 10,000 feet, one of the three CH-146 Griffons based at 4 Wing made a pass down the crowd line. As he was clearing the show area, members of the Canadian Sky Hawks parachute team were already on the way down. A two-stack formation, turning into a side-by-side formation, helped bring in the Stars and Stripes. A three-stack formation, turning into a T-formation helped bring in the Canadian Maple Leaf, according to announcer Ric Peterson, to officially open the Cold Lake International Airshow.

As soon as the last three jumpers had landed, Bud Granley had already taken off in his Harvard to set up for his performance, which would happen later on in the morning. Bud has an interesting way to begin his performance, whether it be having to stage in the air or not. His takeoff with the Harvard featured a low-level snap roll almost immediately after rotation! He went out of the airshow box while another aircraft was in the wings to perform and that was a CF-18 Hornet. Captain "Super Dave" Pletz flew another excellent CF-18 demonstration, this time in 188709, the demonstration jet. After seeing him perform at Cold Lake, I thought about how much better the Canadians fly the Hornet demonstrations over the United States Navy, but comparing a CF-18 demo to an F/A-18F demo, that's hard to do because they are both excellent performances. Super Dave seemed to keep the CF-18 a little further away from the show area than he did on Friday, probably keeping most of the maneuvers along the 1,500 foot line rather than the 500 foot show line. Super Dave did not perform a photo pass, as he went out to join Bud Granley in the Harvard.

As they joined up, Super Dave and Bud made a pass down the show line from the right and immediately broke the formation, with the CF-18 breaking right and the Harvard breaking left, only to have the two aircraft rejoin from show left, with Super Dave in high alpha. The sound of the Heritage Flight was also very unique, as you heard the Harvard's radial engine sound first and then the CF-18's engines. After the high alpha rejoin, the two aircraft broke formation and headed their separate directions - the CF-18 making the downwind and base leg to land and the Harvard out behind the crowd to begin his performance. As the CF-18 was on the rollout, Bud Granley came around from the left in the Harvard to overtake the CF-18 on the runway to begin his performance. Cold Lake's airshow was the first time for me to see Bud fly the Harvard and he flies it so much differently than any other Harvard/Texan pilot I've seen. He performs some maneuvers other pilots wouldn't dare try in a T-6/SNJ/Harvard, like a super slow roll, a 32-point roll, a tail slide, among others.

After Bud landed the Harvard, the Sky Hawks were back in action as the rest of the jumpers had exited the Buffalo. Five jumpers had exited the CC-115, with three joining up for a tri-plane formation and the other two forming up in a bi-plane, followed by a side-by-side formation. The two jumpers fixed themselves into a spiraling downplane before breaking and landing. The other three jumpers formed up into a three-person downplane, similar to one that the bi-plane formation had formed. One of those jumpers broke from the formation to make it a two-person downplane, turning it into a side-by-side formation before breaking and allowing the jumpers to have a safe landing. As soon as they were on the ground, three more jumpers had already exited the Buffalo and joined up to form a tri-plane formation, which then switched to a T-formation, with a fourth jumper coming down on a reserve canopy. The three jumpers switched to a downplane and broke the formation rather at a higher altitude than the other jumpers, allowing them to descend and land. I should mention that the Sky Hawks have the most impressive landings out of any parachute team I've seen!

After all of the jumpers had landed, the CC-115 Buffalo turned inbound to land on runway 31R. He did not land at the far end of the runway, but more towards show center to demonstrate a short landing. I've said that the aircraft redefines short takeoffs and I want to add that it redefines short landings as well! The crew must've had that aircraft going pretty slowly on final approach, used absolutely no flare on landing, reversed the thrust and pitch on the propellers and come to taxi speed in well under 1,000 feet! For an aircraft the size of the Buffalo, that is very impressive. As the Buffalo was taxiing in front of the crowd, a much smaller aircraft was all ready for its demonstration. Piloted by Rick "Comrade" Svetkoff, it was a CF-104D Starfighter. Rick's CF-104D was actually based at Cold Lake back in the Starfighter days of the Canadian Air Force, so having that particular aircraft at the show was a real treat for those who remember the Starfighters flying over Cold Lake. The Starfighters are a demonstration team, with two Starfighters making the airshow circuit. Unfortunately, the team is down to one F-104 because at about the same time in 2003, Tom "Sharkbait" Delashaw was killed when the Hawker Hunter he was ferrying to a show site crashed on takeoff near Scranton, PA. Rumors are that the team will get back into a two-ship performance and maybe a three-ship team, if time and money have their ways. Rick doesn't perform a whole lot of aerobatics, but the sound that the aircraft produces truly makes up for the aerobatics. The J79 turbojet engine (which is what powered the F-4 Phantom) produces a distinctive sound when the fighter makes a flyby and a distinctive noise change when going into afterburner. The Starfighter also does not have the turnaround that many of the modern day aircraft can associate to.

After Rick landed, he taxied by the crowd and revved up the J79 to give a listen to its distinctive whine as its being run up. Before and during his performance, announcer Ric Peterson made a number of requests to have a certain vehicle moved from the Wing Commander's parking spot, or it would be moved for them. A CH-146 Griffon from 417 Combat Support Squadron, based at 4 Wing, appeared from the distance towards show left with the said car under tow. A little comedy routine was going on at the announcer's stand about where to "place" the car, whereby the Griffon released tow line and everyone watched the car become flattened by the impact. The Griffon made one pass before returning to show center to drop off a search and rescue officer (who was a female, might I add - you don't see too many ladies doing these duties in any of the branches of the armed services anywhere) via a rappel line. After she was safely on the ground, the Griffon made a 360º turn (the way an airplane does, not a helicopter) and landed on the grass to pick her up along with any downed aircrew that would be present. After all are on board, the Griffon took off, making a final pass down the showline before heading back to the military hot ramp.

After the Griffon landed, it was time for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds to take the stage. The weather had held up nicely, with clouds surrounding 4 Wing and a few in strategically-placed areas over the show area, but nothing that would hurt the show, as it was going to be a high show. The Thunderbirds did do their ground show, but from my location, you would not be able to see it. The show was delayed because of debris that was on the runway from the car drop performed earlier by the Griffon crew, but by the time they were in the air, the team looked spectacular. A few of the maneuvers had to be cut out or modified according to the cloud cover, namely the half Cuban after the minimum radius turn and the delta roll - which started to threaten the team towards the end of the performance. The delta loop and bomb burst were repositioned as to avoid the cloud cover above show center and show right.

After the Thunderbirds landed and parked their jets, it was time for Kent Pietsch to take his Interstate Cadet for a little flight. It was no ordinary flight for him, performing his comedy routine. Kent manages to rip off part of the aircraft during the performance, including the right aileron, one of the main wheels, and throws non-essentials out of the aircraft during the performance. It reminds me of the many Flying Farmer acts we have back east. Part of Saturday's performance included Kent dragging the left wingtip on the grass at far show left and somehow keeping it in control, looking like a controlled crash and recovery. A little toilet humor was thrown into the performance with Kent throwing a roll of toilet paper out the side of the Interstate Cadet and having Paul Stender drive down the taxiway in a jet-powered outhouse. The outhouse is the funniest thing I've ever seen in my entire life at an airshow. It's a regular outhouse with a jet engine strapped inside. The engine looks more like a standard V6 or V8 when you look at it head-on and Paul sits on the john to steer the outhouse. It has an exhaust out the rear and up the roof to provide fire (like Shockwave) and is capable of about 45 miles an hour. It can be steered almost like a bicycle with handlebars, and I wonder how in the would you would be able to look out in front of you since it looks like there is no frontal vision once the door is closed and the lock switched to occupied.

Once Kent Pietsch landed and was parked, Paul took the outhouse back down to thehot ramp and jumped into a more traditional jet vehicle - the Dodge Ramjet. The Ramjet looked rather familiar, as Willow Grove had a Ramjet for their airshow in 1998, but I'm not sure if it was the same vehicle. Paul took the Ramjet up to about 300 miles an hour down runway 13L before deploying the parachutes and coming to a stop somewhere down on the other end of the runway. Bud and Ross Granley took the stage next with a pair of Yaks - Bud flying the Yak-55 and Ross flying the Yak-18. The Yak-18 is a strange aircraft to be flying aerobatics with, but paired with the Yak-55 in formation, it proves the Yak-18 is capable of aerobatic flight. Father (Bud) and son (Ross) performed some solo maneuvers before joining up for formation aerobatics, before breaking off for more solo aerobatics in their respective aircraft.

After Bud and Ross Granley touched down and taxied past the crowd, three aircraft representing the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, based at 4 Wing, took to the air. The aircraft consisted of a CF-18B Hornet, a CT-133 Silver Star, and a CT-114 Tutor. Behind the Tutor was a CC-130 Hercules (130341) which departed the area to set up for its portion of the show later on in the afternoon. After he departed the immediate area, it was time for the United States Air Force to show off the F-15 Eagle. Captain Joel "Deuce" Hemphill put on an excellent performance in the Eagle, using afterburner for most of the trip near and across the show area. Unfortunately for Deuce, this was one of those few shows that he (or any ACC demo pilot) didn't perform a Heritage Flight in because no approved Heritage Flight pilot had been selected to fly at Cold Lake. Deuce also had to deal with the cloud cover that hampered show center, but he handled it well and still flew the high show, somehow.

After Deuce landed, the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment's CH-146 Griffon took off and made a pass down runway 31R/13L before breaking left to set up for its participation in the show, while Deuce taxied by my position along the show line, even giving me a speed brake wave! The Griffon had been strategically placed at a hover at show center for the AETE flyby, consisting of the CF-18B Hornet flying lead, the CT-133 Silver Star flying the left wing, and the CT-114 Tutor flying the right wing. This was a nice treat to see all four AETE aircraft in the air at one time (and in somewhat of a formation, if you're lucky to get all four aircraft in one frame). After their second pass, the Griffon landed on the taxiway at show center while the formation of jets broke off in the distance, allowing each to perform an individual break to land. The Griffon made one final pass before departing off to the right and behind the crowd.

As the aircraft were landing, Pitch Molnar took to the skies with his Extra 300 and performed some aerobatics before climbing up for some altitude, while the AETE CF-18, CT-133, and CT-114 taxied by the crowd and a mass takeoff of CF-18 Hornets and CT-155 Hawks took place. The CF-18s (188744, 188940, 188777, 188939, 188743, and 188780) took off in three elements of two aircraft, followed by a short break to give the Hornets some room while the CT-155 Hawks (155203, 155205, 155208, and 155217) took off - one element of three aircraft and a single Hawk trailing behind them. The Hawks and Hornets were to take part in a 4 Wing Squadron Showcase later on in the show. Two Hornets represented each of the three squadrons based at 4 Wing: 410 Squadron, 441 Squadron, and 416 Squadron, in that order. Pitch Molnar had the airspace next and put on a short aerobatic display with the Extra 300. I wasn't that impressed with his performance because he did not have the smoke system on (or so it appeared) for the duration of his time in the air and he seemed to fly a more conservative aerobatic performance. However, I did like the cockpit narration incorporated between Pitch and Ric.

With Ken Pietsch circling high up in the Interstate Cadet, the CC-130 Hercules returned from the left with the six CF-18 Hornets trailing behind in a refueling pass. Two of the CF-18s were actually hooked up to the drogues trailing from the CC-130 while the other four CF-18s flew off the left and right wings of the CC-130. After the seven aircraft left the show area, Kent Pietsch shut off the engine and spiraled downward in an powerless, aerobatic performance with the Interstate Cadet. He had "deadsticked" the Cadet, meaning there is no power going to the engine. Normally, deadstick is not something any pilot wants to deal with, as it is one of those worse-case scenarios, but Kent handled the Interstate Cadet as if it was a glider and brought it to a landing on the taxiway at show center, stopping the aircraft in time so that announcer Ric Peterson could reach out and touch the spinner!

After Kent's Interstate Cadet was taken off the taxiway, two large explosions from behind the treeline signaled that 4 Wing Cold Lake was under attack. I had learned those explosions actually came from about twenty pounds of C4. Air raid sirens were audible (but not from my standpoint) and inbound from the right were the four CT-155 Hawks. Two elements of two Hawks, spaced out along the crowd line and the 500 foot show line, assisted by the portable base radar and machine guns (no live fire or blanks) made a high speed pass from the right, dropping munitions, with the accompanied pyrotechnics on the ground. As the second set of two Hawks exited the immediate show area, they made an immediate 180º turnaround, following the first set of two Hawks, making another set of high speed passes down the crowd line and runway, both pairs of Hawks performing a strafing run, with the appropriate pyrotechnics going off on the ground. As the last pair of Hawks exited to the right, the six CF-18 Hornets entered the airspace from the left in three elements of two aircraft, spaced out and positioned in the same fashion as the Hawks. The first two CF-18s performed a high speed pass over the base to drop their ordinance, followed by the second set of Hornets and the last set of Hornets. The second run with the Hornets were strafing runs, with the last set of CF-18s doing a strafing run and a large ordinance drop, shown by a 500 foot wall of fire, which hid behind all of the white smoke from the previous pyrotechnic explosions.

The six CF-18 Hornets then returned from the left to perform high speed passes prior to breaking to land. Immediately following the Hornets were the four CT-155 Hawks performing a high speed missing man formation, followed by a turnaround and a high speed pass by the formation before breaking off to land. As the four CT-155 Hawks (155203, 155205, 155208, and 155217) taxied in, it was time for the Canadian Snowbirds to take to the skies. The Snowbirds took off in one element of five aircraft and the second element being four aircraft - much different that what I've seen them do. As they went out to set up for their performance, the CC-130 Hercules (130341) came in for a landing on runway 31R and marched down the taxiway with the six CF-18 Hornets (188744, 188940, 188777, 188939, 188743, and 188780).

As the seven aircraft were making their march down the taxiway, it was time for the Canadian Snowbirds to take to the stage. Captain Lyle Holbrook, Snowbird #10, did the announcing for the team on Saturday and Sunday, using the incredibly common term "eh" towards the Thunderbirds, complimenting them on their show. The clouds have moved out of the way for the team to perform their high show, which looked spectacular. When the Snowbirds were up (and when the Thunderbirds were up as well), you could tell who in the crowd was from Canada and who was from the United States just by listening to any applause and/or cheering. There wasn't too much applause and cheering for the Thunderbirds, but there was a lot of applause and cheering for the Snowbirds. The Snowbirds had closed out day one of the Cold Lake International Airshow.

After the Snowbird aircraft were parked, one of the cars that was part of the Alberta Car Show took part in a run-up along the taxiway. It was a stock car, similar to one driven by Jeff Gordon. If you haven't seen or heard one run up, they are loud! Imagine 43 of those cars racing inside an oval track during a NASCAR race... it does get quite loud. I had planned on meeting up with Captain "Super Dave" Pletz after the show but those plans went away because of several other things that popped up.

Sunday's show had much better skies than Saturday, with perfectly clear skies throughout the entire day, but it was very windy. I had spent the day going through the static displays one more time, noting a pair of L-39s that must've arrived sometime after Saturday's show ended. I had toured the classic car show, checked out the radio controlled aircraft and rockets, and even toured the E-3B Sentry. The E-3 crew was joking around about the C-141B Starlifter on display, saying that it probably had to be towed up to 4 Wing for the show! As the Thunderbirds were doing their engine run, Thunderbird #8 taxied out and departed Cold Lake to head back to Nellis AFB. His departure was spectacular, as he climbed up to about 25,000 feet and disappeared into the blue sky over 4 Wing.

If you hadn't noticed, I was positioned way over on show right for the majority of the show. Chalets and tents were set up from show center all the way down show right. Unfortunately, the VIP tents that were specifically sponsored by the Cold Lake International Airshow committee were all the way to the right where they could have been closer to show center. Complimentary food and beverages were offered and served by catering companies, who also catered real plates and silverware instead of paper plates and plastic forks and knives. The silverware and plates came in handy on Sunday because it was windy and we all know what happens when the wind kicks up...

Because of the winds, the Canadian Sky Hawks could not jump, but that didn't deter them, as they performed a photo pass with the CC-115 Buffalo. The Buffalo seemed to use a lot less runway to land than he used on Saturday, and he gave an added bonus of backing up! I had taken the time to shoot video of the CF-18 Hornet demonstration, hoping that with a clear blue sky, Super Dave would be able to pull some vapor off the aircraft, but that did not happen as much as I thought it would. Super Dave seemed to have flown the demo a little further out on Sunday than he did on Saturday, but the demonstration was still a good one.

Also because of the winds, the Thunderbirds could not do their regular takeoffs - instead, each aircraft took off individually, which was a very nice treat! The Thunderbirds looked excellent in the air but on the ground, Thunderbird #11 did not handle the announcing as well as I thought he would. Traditionally, he does not announce their performances, but I'll give him credit for doing very well. The team flew a complete high show since there was absolutely no clouds anywhere around 4 Wing and looked spectacular.

The high winds also forced the CF-18s and CT-155 Hawks in the mass attack to perform individual takeoffs, with the Hawks taking off almost one right after another, with the Hornets putting in a second or two of distance between each aircraft. The six Hornets hooked up with the CC-130 Hercules for the refueling pass, but the two CF-18s at the drogues did not actually hook up, possibly because of the high winds. As the refueling formation headed out, an F-15 Eagle from the West Coast Demonstration Team departed for Eglin AFB in Florida. The six CF-18s involved with the mass attack on Sunday included 188744, 188729, 188939, 188777, 188770, and 188743. The four CT-155 Hawks involved included 155203, 155205, 155220, and 155208. The CC-130 Hercules that provided the aerial refueling portion of the show was 130341.

The Snowbirds were the last act to go up on Sunday and with the high winds, the team still managed to put on an amazing display. Instead of the five and four-ship takeoffs, the Snowbirds chose to take off in three elements of three aircraft - pretty much what I'm used to seeing them do. The skies remained clear above the show area whereas clouds started to form around the base, but that did not do anything to the Snowbirds' performance. The Snowbirds had officially capped off a weekend of flying at 4 Wing Cold Lake to celebrate the base's 50th Anniversary.

After the show, I had met up with Captain "Super Dave" Pletz and he agreed to take my dad and I, plus one of the crew chiefs, to the hot ramp to have a look at 188709, as well as the other aircraft parked over there, including eight more CF-18s, 188926 - the backup jet and the jet I flew in, the F-15 Eagle demo jet, the CC-115 Buffalo, CC-130 Hercules, the three CH-146 Griffons, and the AETE aircraft. I got a chance to photograph 188709 and 188926 as much as possible as well as watching the S-3 Viking depart. Super Dave knew about how I got to sit in the Tiger, so he invited my dad to get a cockpit familiarization with the CF-18.

Under the new rating system, consisting of either Excellent, Very Good, Good, Okay, Eh, or Poor, with a Plus and/or Minus when necessary, the 2004 Cold Lake International Airsho



Military Teams

Tentative Military Demonstrations

Civillian Demonstrations

Participating Organizations

Announcer: Ric Peterson

2004 Cold Lake International Airshow Website