The Canadian International Air Show Shakes the Sky
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The Canadian International Air Show Shakes the Sky

After being canceled due to high winds on Saturday, the Canadian International Air Show went off as planned on Sunday.

Danny Robson, an older man wearing a Blue Angels baseball cap, was standing on a pier next to the Billy Bishop Airport ferry ramp, amidst a crowd of perhaps fifty other people (families, couples, and the odd lone curiosity-seeker). He was gazing at distant planes through a pair of binoculars.
“I was born and raised in Toronto,” he said, “and I’ve been coming here, I guess, for probably forty years.”
What keeps him coming back? “Just the thunder of the jets,” he said. “The maneuverability of them, the speed, the technology, the bravery of the pilots—men and women. And I’m just in awe of very fast aircraft.”
As we spoke, a cormorant flew low across the narrow channel of water between the pier and the airport, creating a distraction—but only a momentary one. On Sunday, the most eye-catching birds were flying a little higher in the sky.
The Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team, consisting of three World War II–era propeller-driven aircraft painted bright yellow, was one of the day’s big draws. The Aerobatic Team spent fifteen minutes executing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops in perfect formation. At one point, two of the planes drew a heart with white smoke in the air above Lake Ontario, and then the third plane somehow managed also to cross the heart with an arrow.
At around 2:30, an F-16 fighter jet cruised directly over the Fiesta Farms near Christie Pits, trailing a droning, booming noise so loud that it seemed to shake the sky. Several shoppers stopped and looked skyward for a shared moment of awe, or possibly annoyance.
“I like the CNE,” said Roy Mitchell during a phone interview, “But the air show? Do it somewhere where people don’t live.” Mitchell is one of the organizers of the “Fighting Stupid Traditions Picnic,” an anti-Air Show event scheduled to take place at noon today, in Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Mitchell, 51 and a lifelong Ontario resident, said he objects to the Air Show’s glorification of military craft (though non-miliary planes also perform), and also to its unnecessary use of fossil fuels—and also to the noise created by the event, which can be heard throughout much of downtown at intervals during the show’s three-day duration.
Mitchell—who stressed that his planned anti-Air Show gathering (which he said will probably be canceled if it rains) is a casual coming together of like-minded people for an afternoon of fun and not an angry protest—doesn’t consider tradition sufficient reason for the Air Show’s annual (since 1946) intrusion upon the eyes and ears of Torontonians.
“Bullfights are traditional, right? I don’t like bullfights,” he joked. “Beheadings are quite a traditional thing. I don’t like them.”
In any case, despite inclement weather, the tradition remains intact for another year. The Air Show concludes today.
Photos by Hamish Grant. The rest of the set is here.

CORRECTION: SEPTEMBER 7, 2010 The pilot of the FG-1 D Corsair was originally misidentified in a caption as Robert Hampton—part of the name of a famous Corsair pilot, but not of the man behind the controls at this weekend’s Air Show. The caption should have identified the pilot we spoke to as Paul Kissman.