Feature: Canadian airport abuzz over aviation prospects
Saturday, June 19, 2021 11:22 PM

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VANCOUVER, Jun. 19, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- It's not often you meet someone who has their own warplane.

Yet, at the Boundary Bay Airshow on Saturday at a suburban airstrip outside Vancouver, several proud owners of various fighter planes and trainers were in attendance showing off their prize possessions.

"Well luckily I have a very understanding wife," said Tom Rogers, standing in front of his Canadair CT-133 military training plane, originally built off a Lockheed Aircraft design in 1952 for the Royal Canadian Airforce. "Some of my friends told me I was a little bit crazy, but eventually they came around."

The Air Canada (TSX:AC') (OOTC:AIDIF) (TSX:AC'B) (TSX:AC'A) (TSX:ACE'B) pilot explained he bought the decommissioned plane -- measuring 38 feet long with a wing span of 40 feet -- in 2006 for a price tag of about 200,000 Canadian dollars.

"My personal motivation was I flew these things in the military and I wanted to have my own one day. It came available so I figured I would get one," said Rogers looking very "Top Gun" behind his dark aviator glasses.

"Maintenance on the aircraft isn't expensive, but the operating costs are very expensive," he added. "It's a thirsty airplane and it burns a lot of fuel."

As a Czechoslovakia-made Delfin L 29 jet -- a training plane for the Russian Mig fighter jet -- buzzed the crowd, dropping a smoke bomb in a simulated bombing exercise, Dan Zagorsek watched the fly-by of his former countryman John Mrazek with great interest.

Leaning against his own Cessna four-seater, a much smaller yet equally vintage plane, he explained the aircraft was built specifically for the U.S. Air Force for the Vietnam War to carry out observation and provide direction for fighter planes in attacks.

"It's a real workhorse, a Vietnam War veteran. I bought it in 1992 and have had it ever since. It was retired from the U.S. Air Force when they were getting rid of all of their gas-driven airplanes."

The Slovakian said the plane, painted in a flat military grey, could cover about 2,000 kilometers in a single flight.

"There are very few of these left, the attrition rate was very high. They lost about 400 of them (in Vietnam). In civilian hands there are probably about 20. It's a warbird built a different way."

At the sixth annual airshow, a free event staged by Alpha Aviation, the leaseholder on the airport that was originally built in 1941 as a training facility for the Allied Forces during World War II, the vintage planes on display drew huge crowds, more so than the shiny new offering parked beside them.

It is such interest that the airport is hoping to capitalize on. After spending more than 30 million Canadian dollars over the past six years to improve infrastructure around the airport and build a new terminal opened in February, Alpha Aviation is looking to attract potential pilots to its flight school equipped with the latest flight simulators.

"Rather than go down to the States, or wherever they need to do their simulator training for the bigger aircraft, they can actually stay here at Boundary Bay where we have facilities to do that," said Linda Freer, the airport's manager of marketing and business development.

"We see huge potential for the demand for commercial aviators, so that will bring a lot of investment into the community."

The locally-based Canadian Museum of Flight is another looking to provide opportunity for the country's future aviators. In addition to restoring vintage planes and providing aviation research, the museum also operates a cadet squadron for young people.

"They're the future fliers, people who will be involved in aviation," said Matt Offer, a volunteer with the museum. "We have the history there, the evolution of the aircraft, technology comparative, the bi-plane, the jet trainer, the evolution of technology."

Standing in front of a replica of a Sopwith Camel, the British-made single-seat bi-plane that helped change the course of World War I for the Allies, Offer said the opportunities in commercial aviation were abundant for those with the necessary skills.

In addition to the commercial airlines, there was also work in smaller aircraft. By example, he pointed to a de Havilland turbo Beaver seaplane on display, an aircraft that has been particularly useful in navigating Canada's difficult terrain.

"British Columbia is nothing but mountains. You go north and you have rugged terrain in terms of frozen lakes. There are no facilities or resources for aircraft. The turbo Beaver is the best bush plane in the world and has opened up a lot of areas.

"It's used for timber cruising, taking miners in for mining exploration. We have diamond mines in the Arctic because bush pilots would take the miners out to check out the prospects for future mines. There are still a lot of these areas out there to explore and these places can only be reached by plane."

 

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