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Snowbirds expected to provide boost to Red Deer airshow

Air racing and an airshow will provide the thrills at Red Deer Regional Airport July 29-30
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be performing at Red Deer Regional Airport on July 29-30 as part of an airshow and air racing event. (THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Colin Perkel)

Central Alberta skies are going to be filled with some high-octane aerial action next summer.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds precision aviators will headline a two-day airshow that will include the local debut of an air racing event billed as the fastest motorsport on earth.

After lining up the Snowbirds for the July 29-30 weekend, Red Deer Regional Airport arranged to move the 2023 Canadian International Air Race Championships, originally set for July 7-9, to the same weekend.

Red Deer will be only one of two Alberta shows so far announced in the 24-show Snowbird season. The team will go to Edmonton Aug. 5-6. The Snowbirds have not yet announced where they plan to celebrate Canada Day.

There was always going to be an airshow component to the air racing event. However, the addition of the iconic Snowbirds gives the airshow a boost, said airport business development and communications director Nancy Paish.

“It’s a really big deal,” said Paish. “As an airport we have been looking at bringing a large aviation event back to the community for the past three years.

“The fact we have some solid ground moving forward, we’re really excited about it. It’s been a long time since we had one.

“It’s a really exciting event for our community.”

The first Red Deer International Air Show was staged in 1983 and was held every year until 1995, according to the Springbrook-Waskasoo Life history of the area. The Snowbirds were expected to fly at the Rocky Mountain House Airshow in 2020 but the event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Jodi Smith, president of the Harvard Historical Aviation Society, also expects the Snowbirds to provide a big lift.

“I think they will be an excellent draw for the event,” said Smith.

The society hopes to have a presence at the weekend shows and let people know about some of its activities, which includes restoring vintage Tiger Moth and Airspeed Oxford training aircraft and running a museum in Springbrook.

The airport was awaiting the Snowbirds announcement before pursuing other airshow acts. Organizers will spend the next few months lining up a roster of airshow attractions.

The Air Race Championships will feature Formula F1 Pylon Racers and Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) drag racers along with aerobatic display by top performers. About 500 participants are expected along with crowds of 10,000 to 15,000.

Pylon Air Racers compete head-to-head in souped-up planes on a fixed course. Flyers soar around the pylons only 15 metres above the ground at up to 400 km/h.

The STOL competition pits pilots in an aerial drag race down and back on a 600-metre course. Both events are expected to draw racers from Canada, including Alberta, the U.S., Australia and Europe.

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