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Big wet sinks Edmonton Airshow

Soaked fields unsafe for crowds, say organizers
1008 AirshowCancel file
GROUNDED – A Lockheed C-130 Hercules arrived at the Villeneuve airport last year while workers prepared the site for the 2018 Edmonton Airshow. This year's airshow has been cancelled due to wet conditions. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Correction
This piece misidentifed the A-10C Thunderbolt as the AC-10. It has been updated with the correct name.

This year’s Edmonton Airshow might be cancelled, but hold onto those tickets, says its organizer – they’re still valid for next year’s show.

Edmonton Airshow organizers announced Thursday that they were cancelling their 2019 show at Villeneuve Airport because its fields are unsafe. The show was scheduled to run Aug. 17-18.

Edmonton Airshow president Richard Skermer said Edmonton Airports, which runs the Villeneuve Airport, pulled their approval for the airshow to use the fields Thursday, and that he supported their decision.

“It’s just too wet. We put a truck out there yesterday and it just sank out of sight,” he said, by which he meant about eight-inches deep.

“I was sinking just standing on (the field).”

That soft ground made the airport unsafe for an airshow, Skermer explained. Fire trucks would not be able to reach pilots, and the 40,000-odd guests expected over the weekend would turn the fields into a slippery, hazardous mud pit. Guests would also track mud on the runway, which could put pilots at risk.

“I do not want to be responsible for someone’s accident or death,” Skermer said, and he did not want to damage the airport.

Environment Canada data suggests that Edmonton just went through its third rainiest July in 50 years, with rainfall reported on 21 out of 31 days, Skermer said. With more rain to come this week, there was no way that the airport would dry out by next weekend.

“Ensuring safety is our number one priority,” Steve Maybee, Edmonton Airports vice-president of operations and infrastructure said in a press release.

“We advised the airshow organizers that due to significant rainfall, we cannot permit the use of the fields for parking due to the risk of spectator vehicles, emergency and airport vehicles becoming stuck.”

Skermer said switching airports wasn’t an option, as it takes months to get the necessary insurance and clearances in place for an airshow. Airshow staff determined they’d need to muster 300 buses, 80 acres of mats, or up to $5 million in gravel to avoid the muddy fields, none of which were feasible. That led them to cancel the show.

Skermer said this is the first time that the airshow had been cancelled, adding that airshows in general are particularly sensitive to the weather. (They cancelled the show’s practice day last year due to forest fire smoke.)

In an email, Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said the county was disappointed by this lost opportunity to showcase the Villeneuve Airport and the incredible talent of the airshow’s performers, adding that this year’s rains had caused havoc for many outdoor events.

“Although we are losing this year’s platform to build awareness on this front, Sturgeon County will continue to build awareness and momentum around this regional gem and support the organizers in their plans for next year.”

Airshow will return

Skermer said airshow staff would have details on ticket refunds posted to the show’s website later this week. He encouraged guests to hold onto their tickets, though, as they would still be valid for the 2020 airshow.

“We’re not going away,” he said, and all the non-military performers for this year’s show have said they plan to come back next year. (Airshows typically have to bid on military acts like the Snowbirds, the CF-18 Hornet, and A-10C Thunderbolt, so their attendance is not assured.) Show staffers also hope to have a trade fair and air races by the Reno Air Racing Association at next year’s show.

Watch edmontonairshow.com for updates.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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