Every September, Torontonians are enthralled by the sounds and sights of jet aircraft overhead during the Canadian International Air Show. Hamish Grant will be documenting some of the airborne events for Torontoist over the next few days.
One hundred years ago, on February 23, the first powered heavier-than-air flight in Canadian history took off across Baddeck Bay in Nova Scotia. To celebrate the centennial, some of Canada’s most legendary aircraft will be flying the skies over Toronto this weekend. CAF Colonel (retired) and astronaut Chris Hadfield will be piloting “Hawk One,” a refurbished RCAF Canadair F-86 Sabre jet. Sabres played significant roles in the Korean War from 1950–1953 and in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Established in 1959 to celebrate fifty years of Canadian flight, the Golden Hawks were a noted Canadian aerobatic team until they disbanded in 1964. “Hawk One” has been restored under the original Golden Hawks livery, and the fifty-five-year-old jet has been appearing across the country this year with its five pilots and ten-person maintenance crew.
Also marking the centennial, the Canadian Forces have painted a CF-18 demonstration aircraft in a mix of classical and modern motifs, including the names of a hundred notable people in Canadian aviation history. The CF-18 Hornet is Canada’s frontline fighter jet, and like the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, the Century Hornet will be seen (and heard) over Toronto this weekend, with Captain Tim “Donor” Woods in the cockpit.
Another special paint job was done on a squadron of CT-114 Tutor jets back in 1967, which was not only the fiftieth anniversary of Canadian military aviation, but also the country’s centennial year. Known as the Golden Centennaires, the eight-plane formation entertained more than four million spectators across Canada and the United States, including the crowds at Expo 67. The Tutor in demonstration this weekend was restored in 2000 in conjunction with aviation artist Geoff Bennett, who designed the original Golden Centennaires paint scheme.
If the Golden Centennaires aircraft look familiar, it’s because they are also used by the famed Snowbirds, Canada’s foremost aerobatic demonstration squadron. In fact, several of the Tutor aircraft used by the Golden Centennaires were rejigged to fly past football games and special events with a team that would eventually come together as the Snowbirds in the early ’70s. In the almost four decades since, the squadron has become a Canadian icon, appearing on Canada Post stamps, flying in formation over Ottawa for Canada Day celebrations, and as an annual highlight of the Canadian International Air Show.
All photos by Hamish Grant/Torontoist.