The Alberta Air Tour – a series of group flights organized by aviators from across Alberta – is planning to conclude its 2022 tour with a stop at the Beiseker Airport on Aug. 27.
The third annual tour is set to kick off in Medicine Hat, followed by a stop in Claresholm, before touching down in Beiseker later the same day.
MLA for Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland Shane Getson, who is also a pilot, said the first Alberta Air Tour was held in 2020 to bring socially distanced fun to families and aviation enthusiasts alike.
He said when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many activities and events were shutting down, including air shows.
“There was nothing for folks to see or do at the airports,” Getson said in a phone interview. “A bunch of us got together at the hangar and thought, ‘How in the heck do we keep the props spinning?’
“[We thought,] ‘How do we give back to the communities and honestly have something as a venue for people to come out and enjoy?’”
Getson, who is a founding member and director of the tour, said he and his colleagues began scratching their heads for a way to bring life back to local airports and air parks that may have “fallen by the wayside” during the pandemic.
“I called out to the elected officials and some of the business communities and then gave them the pitch,” he said. “'I have about 6,200 people I’m going to be bringing to your area – tell us why people should invest and put your best foot forward.’
“’And by the way, we’re going to be doing the same thing at some communities down the road, so really put on a good show.’”
Getson said the initial response was phenomenal and the event has continued to grow since the first iteration. The 2021 Alberta Air Tour, which included a stop at the Airdrie Air Park, saw participation from local community members and witnessed many attendees, he added.
“You get a chance to have kids of all ages come out and take a look at the different aircraft, talk to the pilots firsthand and see the planes,” Getson said. “You get to see all the good things that happen in your community broadcast across the province, and country.”
According to Getson, each year the event features north, south, and central tours, highlighting hidden gems across the province. Each tour consists of three to five airports.
He estimates the tour has visited approximately 30 airports over the years.
“We have seen overwhelming things happen at every airport,” he said, adding various airports combined the event with car shows, farmers markets, meet-and-greets, and more.
“In Airdrie – it was phenomenal. You had all the local flyers that were out there, plus the radio station. It was more like a really good old-fashioned festival/farmer’s market/show-and-shine.”
He said following the first two years of the Air Tour, folks paid more attention to and held more pride in their communities. Getson said the tour was also recognized nationally by the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association following its initial success.
“With all of that, it starts to drive awareness, and then that awareness starts to drive business opportunities for those communities,” he said. “And if they show that hospitality, it’s been proven time and time again that starts driving dollar values back into those communities.”
Getson said the reason for choosing Beiseker as the final stop on the 2022 Alberta Air Tour is because it is a “diamond in the rough.” He added the Beiseker Airport doesn’t necessarily get support from locals or surrounding communities.
“Oftentimes if they don’t pay attention to it or understand what kind of a gem they have, they’ll lose it,” he said. “Beiseker’s well-poised just north of Calgary – out of the operating zone – in a beautiful part of the country out there.”
According to Getson, Beiseker’s Airport is home to a dormitory, a skydiving business, a courtesy car, and a restaurant right on the field.
“They have many of the key elements that most communities would give their hind teeth for, and it’s not being recognized,” he said. “I don’t know if the community knows what a valuable asset they have.”
Getson added part of the group’s mandate is to show off communities that have developed their airports, but also ones who need a little tender love and care.
“It’s what we can give back as flyers – we can promote areas and communities that really are deserving of it, quite frankly,” he said.
He added the event is free for anyone to attend and is an especially exciting time for young people and aspiring pilots.
“Bring the kids out – you'll get to meet current F-18 pilots, a Top Gun pilot (our Canadian version of that), air racers that are homegrown Alberta talent, and a bunch of folks that have built their own airplanes,” he said.
“For those that might be thinking of a different career or if you want to inspire your kids in school, we love talking to kids and showing them airplanes and letting them dream big.”
“Once you get into this community, the sky’s the limit,” Getson said, adding the aviation industry is continuing to grow and seek new talent in Alberta.
According to Getson, the event is a chance for residents to display the best their community has to offer.
“I implore business and community leaders to come on out and meet some of the pilots and then look at all these shining faces from across the province that are showing up in your area,” he said. “Show some of that western hospitality that you’re famous for and it’ll be pain in dividends going forward.”
For more information on the upcoming Alberta Air Tour, visit Alberta Air Tours on Facebook.