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Glide Path: Presenting a united front

On the first day of the 50th Abbotsford International Air Show, early arrivals were staking out prime viewing spots or checking out the multitude of aircraft on the static lines.


September 10, 2012
By Paul Dixon

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On the first day of the 50th Abbotsford International Air Show, early arrivals were staking out prime viewing spots or checking out the multitude of aircraft on the static lines. As vintage aircraft circled overhead, providing a hint of what was to come before the official start later that morning, few of those on the grounds would have noticed what was happening under a large white tent in front of the Cascade Aerospace facility a few metres from the east end of the viewing area. Billed as the B.C. Aerospace Showcase, every available seat was filled with senior executives from the Canadian aerospace sector and representatives from all three levels of government.

Schellenberg  
“They are in partnership not just with the company, but with a country, a province and a community that is committed to the aerospace sector.” PHOTO: Paul Dixon


 

The day before, the City of Abbotsford and Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) Authority had hosted a one-day Aerospace & Defence Expo at the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre.  Owned by the city, YXX is embarking on an ambitious campaign to attract new aerospace industry tenants following the recent $30-million dollar airport expansion. More than 200 delegates attended from across Canada. The keynote luncheon speaker, President and CEO of Cascade Aerospace David Schellenberg, spoke as the Chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), emphasizing that success is not about one company being better than another or pitting the provinces and regions of the country against one another for business, but rather it’s about building the Canadian aerospace industry to compete on the world stage by working together.

Friday morning saw a major press conference at Cascade Aerospace to announce Lockheed Martin has selected Cascade Aerospace to become one of only two Lockheed Martin-authorized C-130 Heavy Maintenance Centers (HMCs) in the world. The event drew a number of dignitaries from industry and the three levels of government. It was interesting to hear politicians from the three levels of government speak to the importance of the Canadian aerospace industry from the perspective of their level of responsibility.

The mayor of Abbotsford spoke from the city’s perspective as the owner of the airport and the very deliberate process that had gone into the upgrading of facilities at YXX as well as the foresight in changing zoning on lands adjacent to YXX to enable orderly growth. 

Provincial Minister of Health Mike de Jong, speaking as the MLA representing Abbotsford West, emphasized the provincial government’s commitment to the aerospace industry by saying “we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the federal government, the city and airport authority and our partners in business to ensure that companies like Lockheed-Martin can extend their hand across the border to companies like Cascade Aerospace. We know that they are in partnership not just with the company, but with a country, a province and a community that is committed to the aerospace sector.”

Abbotsford MP and Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, underscored the importance of the aerospace industry to the Canadian economy by pointing out the large number of industry leaders present in the audience as well as the large number of MPs, MLAs and municipal representatives. The minister also discussed the blue chip panel currently reviewing Canadian aerospace under the leadership of David Emerson and the hope being that the panel members will come back with recommendations to use the aerospace industry to drive prosperity and raise it to a new level.

RCAF CO Lt. Gen. Andre Deschampe praised the strong working relationship between the RCAF and the Canadian aerospace sector, describing the relationship as the key to the success the RCAF has enjoyed on its varied missions at home and abroad. Deschampe was frank in describing the current economic reality as the future for the RCAF.

“[We will] innovative, agile and adaptive to ensure the Canadian taxpayers get the best value for their dollar.” This includes an increase in modeling and simulation to save wear on airframes and air crews, new uses for UAVs, and experiments with synthetic jet fuel to name a few.

As the dignitaries were whisked away to perform the official opening ceremonies of the 50th Abbotsford Air Show, I couldn’t help but wonder what it will look like in another 50 years.

Half a century ago, a group of people with energy, enthusiasm and vision took an underutilized airport and put on an air show with a budget of $700.

Today, the event has an annual budget well up into the millions, and along the way it became the catalyst that drove not only the airport, but the entire region into the forefront of the Canadian and ultimately the global aerospace market. 


Paul Dixon is freelance writer and photojournalist living in Vancouver.