Airdrie residents will be pointing their eyes to the sky on Aug. 7, when dozens of small aircraft will be flying into the city as part of the 2021 Alberta Air Tour’s southern leg – the final stop on a four-leg tour around the province.
“The event is free, so please come out and bring your friends and family,” said Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt in a video posted to her Facebook page about the tour. “There are no COVID-19 restrictions, so this is going to be such an awesome event.”
Along with food trucks, once all aircraft land at the Airdrie Air Park, event-goers will be able to chat with the participating pilots and check out the approximately 40 small-engine planes on display.
Ryan Gassner, president of the Airdrie Flying Club, said a few MLAs originally planned the tour, which will be making its fourth and final stop on Aug. 7.
“It’s going to be really exciting; we’re going to see some pretty unique aircrafts,” he said in Pitt’s video.
One of the MLAs who initially put the Alberta Air Tour’s wheels in motion is Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson. In explaining the motivation for the event, he said traditionally, every two years, registered pilots must go through a Transport Canada safety course. Wherever the course is organized, pilots gather and get together at a location to take it, while at the same time enjoying the company and checking out each other’s aircrafts.
“With COVID-19, we had to find a modified approach,” Getson said. “A bunch of us thought, wouldn’t it be a good idea if we started to introduce people to aviation at these local airports where restrictions were a little bit different.”
Getson said not only does the tour teach people about aviation, but it also gives residents in the communities that host it an opportunity to showcase what makes the area special.
“It has worked out really well – it has been astounding how many people have come out,” he said.
While the fly-by tours initially started last year in Central Alberta, the group of participating pilots has already completed three legs in 2021. Getson said each venue is different, and whoever takes the ‘bull by the horns’ locally has a lot to do with the success of the event.
“MLA Pitt has been the one who lobbied for this once she heard about it and told me we had to come to the city,” he said. “People can expect a wholesome and fun time.”
Another organizer of the tour, pilot Scott Holmes, said much of the population in Alberta is not very well connected to general aviation, and the tour is an opportunity to teach people about the industry.
“There is a lot of work to do there,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that general aviation is affordable and quite accessible for the average person.”
Holmes added he has been flying planes since he was 16 years old, and said aviation is the “last wild west” of activities and communities people can get into.
“There are hardly any government regulations,” he said. “It provides freedom.”
For interested residents, the free event will take place at the Airdrie Air Park, located five kilometres east of the city off of Yankee Valley Boulevard, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.