2008 Quebec International Airshow
June 13-15, 2008
Jean-Lesage International Airport
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Airshow Report written on July 4, 2008.
It took me four years to make a return trip to Canada, and in 2008, I did so. There were a few reasons why I decided to go to Canada, and one of them was to go to an airshow... actually, that was the only reason. The 400th anniversary of Quebec City, which is the capital of the province of Quebec, took place in 2008, and the city wanted to celebrate with a world-class airshow. The ICAS Convention in December revealed that the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, and Snowbirds were all committed to this grand airshow, with the French military aerobatic team Patrouille de France and the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows committed as well. The fact of having five jet teams at one airshow within a decent range from New Jersey was enough of a reason for me to go. The only things that would have held me back is the drive (600 miles one way) and the fact that Quebec is a VERY expensive city. Nonetheless, two of my friends expressed interest in the show, and I managed to put things together to make the drive and stay much more manageable.
We all arrived in Quebec on Thursday the 12th, with my friend Matt and I driving up the entire day and arriving during rush hour, and my friend Nate arriving later that night. It was also my first time driving across the border into Canada, as I had flown into Toronto from Philadelphia back in 2004, and I had no idea what to expect. I was actually trying to find the physical line in the earth that dictates the land between the United States and Canada but I didn't see it (basically I was looking for something like when one drives into another state, the type of pavement in the road and the markings on the road will change, visibly showing the state line), so that was sort of a letdown. Driving into Quebec felt like driving in a completely different country, as everything in the province was marked in French. I caught on quickly to what some of the road signs meant, and for the most part, stop signs, yield signs, and the such are shaped the same as they are in the United States. Most of the radio stations around Montreal were in English, so that was pretty exciting, but the closer to Quebec, the more and more French-speaking radio stations were being picked up.
The airshow itself, was actually, in my opinion, full of questions, and I will explain that as best as I can. Nobody knew for sure what was happening for a Friday practice show, and I was told that none of the jet teams and none of the performers would fly a practice that day. I thought that was really weird, and I didn't know what to expect as well. I had applied for a media pass for the entire weekend just a week or so before the show, and I had no idea if my request had gotten approved or not, but somehow, I was indeed approved. A group of us had decided that since there would be no flying during the day on Friday, that we would go into Old City and get something to eat. We had no map, and none of us knew where we were going, except that the main drag that our hotel was on eventually went towards Old City. Even though we didn't have a whole lot of time to check it out, the parts that we did see were VERY nice and I must say right away - every young lady that we saw walk by was gorgeous. I mention that because when I went to Cold Lake four years ago, I got a bad impression of the young ladies of Canada, and having been to Quebec, I've gotten a completely different viewpoint of what each one of us saw. A native Quebec resident on AirShowBuzz's forums stated that when Quebec was being colonized, France sent many of their best prostitutes over to Quebec. I don't know how much truth there is to that, but to say that at least 90% of the young ladies I saw (between 18-29 years of age, or so they looked that old) looked like they could be supermodels could be somewhat of an understatement.
Now, onto the airshow itself. I've seen the Blues, Thunderbirds, Snowbirds, and I've seen the Sky Hawks, the CF-18, Gene Soucy, Dan Buchanan, and the Shockwave Jet Truck countless times in the past, so I will steer away from saying something about all them. I really wanted to see the French, but they had pulled out of the show less than two months prior to the airshow, which meant that I really wanted to see the Reds the most out of any of the performers at the Quebec International Airshow. I had very high expectations for the Red Arrows, as this would be my very first time seeing them perform, and needless to say, not only did they meet my expectations, but they also beat them and threw every other jet team (well, the North American three) that I've seen in the past into the water. I'm not breaking stones or balls if it sounds like the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, and Snowbirds are now sub-par, since I now see each of those teams in a completely different ballpark than from the Reds. The Reds put on a show that I thought would be somewhat similar to the Snowbirds, since both teams fly nine aircraft in their performances, but the Reds kick things up a notch. The display, while about 25 minutes long and seems short, is action packed from the start. The first half of the display consists of nine-plane formations, the names of which include the Big Battle, the Diamond Nine, the Shuttle, Flanker, Eagle, and Lancaster, to name a few, consisting of rolling, looping, and/or tight-G turns in the nine-plane formations (the turns are what the team calls "bend"). The second half features hair-raising opposing passes by Reds 6 & 7, and two formations of aircraft - one consisting of Reds 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and the other consisting of reds 6, 7, 8, and 9. In fact, all of my favorite maneuvers that the team flies occurs during the second half of the performance (the names of those maneuvers being the Goose, the Rollbacks, and the Gypo Break). After seeing the Reds in Quebec, I was really looking forward to seeing them at Langley AFB and in Rhode Island, and again in New York City.
All four jet teams performed a special flypast over Quebec on Friday evening, with one plane from each team taking off from Jean-Lesage International Airport and forming up in a tight, dissimilar diamond formation, along with an additional Thunderbird and Blue Angel acting as photo ships. The six jets were up in the air for a good 45 minutes to an hour before returning to the airport - the four representing the four teams in an echelon formation, and the two U.S. team aircraft trailing them in the break. All of the aircraft returned to a special part of the airport for a very special photo opportunity. The four aircraft were parked on an apron, with all of the officers and enlisted personnel from each jet presented by each of their respective jets. I had known about this photo opportunity taking place but unfortunately for me, I was not invited. I was lucky enough to get the aircraft taking off, the overheads, and the landings, and I was a very happy camper as a result. The teams also had one jet parked over by one of the static areas, and in my opinion, was a show of class and respect for the crowds visiting the airport for the show that weekend.
I've seen Skip Stewart a few times in the past (well, twice - once in 2006 and once again in 2007) and after seeing him fly at NAS Oceana last year, I thought his performance in Quebec basically blew away Oceana. I realize that he flew the same routine at both shows, but the fact that the runway was much closer at Quebec than it was at Oceana really made a difference in my appreciation for his hardcore aerobatic style and performance - the likes of which remind me of the late Jim LeRoy, who was a personal friend of mine. Skip joined up with Gene Soucy and Kent Shockley for the X-Team performance, which was a spectacular display of everything that could possibly look awesome at an airshow. I got a laugh at just how fast Skip's modified Pitts is versus to the slowness and the size of the Showcat that Gene Soucy flies, which also put some unique perspective on the X-Team performance.
Despite the fact that there were so few acts, the weather being somewhat uncooperative over the entire weekend, and so many gaps as a result of the very active commercial nature of the Jean-Lesage International Airport, the Quebec International Airshow was a VERY good show. I have heard that this would be the last airshow at the airport, since the amount of passenger traffic going in and out of the airport has been rapidly growing as the years go by would not permit an airshow from being held once again. If that is the case, then I am proud to say I have attended the last Quebec International Airshow at Jean-Lesage International Airport. Everything on this trip had gone off as well as I could have planned (sans weather), and I don't think I'll be driving 600 miles one-way for an airshow for a while... at least until a new car comes into my hands.
It should also be noted that most of the airshow was narrated in French, with only the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels performances being completely in English, and the Snowbirds performance in both English and French.
Military Demonstration Teams
Canadian Sky Hawks
RAF Red Arrows
US Navy Blue Angels
Military Aircraft Demonstrations
CF-18 Hornet Demonstration
Aerobatic Performances, Warbird Performances, and Others
Gene Soucy & Teresa Stokes
Kent Shockley - Shockwave Jet Truck