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f22.gif (991 bytes)CIAS 2000 Press Release

Summer 1999


Celebrating 50 Years of High-Flying Entertainment

To many Ontario residents, it seems the CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL AIR SHOW has been an annual event at the Toronto waterfront for as long as they can remember - and they’re right, as it’s Canada's oldest annual air show.

Each consecutive year since 1949, the show has been a feature of the Canadian National Exhibition (the world's largest annual Exhibition) in Toronto, as the successor to many earlier air shows held at the CNE dating back to shortly after World War I. The Air Show stage extends over Lake Ontario off the CNE grounds. Non-airport staging permits viewing of approximately 20 different acts within a 3-hour period which could take over 8 hours under normal airport show conditions.

The Air Show is organised and conducted by Canadian Exhibition Air Shows Inc., which is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion and display of aviation. With the exception of one full-time Air Show Co-ordinator and seasonal Assistant Co-ordinators, the entire air show is run by volunteers.

The CIAS is a charter member of the International Council of Air Shows. ICAS is the only organisation that provides co-ordination, support and continuity for air show sponsors and performers.

The implementation of the CIAS "Medical, Crash & Rescue Instruction Programme" has been adopted as a model for the air show industry.

The CIAS boasts the appearances of many significant aircraft over the years. For example, it is the first non-trade air show in the world at which the Concorde performed, as well as both high-level reconnaissance U.S. Air Force U-2 and SR-71 aircraft.

Following is a brief history of visiting aircraft over the years:

Powered flight has changed dramatically from those early days in 1909 when the Silver Dart lifted off a frozen lake in Nova Scotia and became the first heavier-than-air aircraft to fly in Canada. Pioneer pilot J.A.D. McCurdy would marvel at the technology powering the Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter aircraft. The long journey from balloon fabric wings to composite materials has been marked by spectacular engineering achievements and occasionally frustrated dreams.

The first public exhibition of formation flying in Canada was over the CNE waterfront in 1919. The stars were Fokker D VII fighters. The first recorded and formally organised show, by today's standards, was in August 1939. This show was primarily a military one; aircraft from the RCAF included one Hawker Hurricane, one Supermarine Stranraer twin-engined flying boat, 15 Oxford Light Bombers (recently received from England), one Lysander Army Recce Aircraft (built at Malton for delivery to Canadian and British Forces) and six Fairey Battle Bombers. The finale was a mass power dive towards the crowd from 5,000 feet. On the last day of this first air show, Pat Patterson, a civilian pilot from Toronto, had an engine failure while performing over the waterfront and landed on the grandstand track. He managed to get his engine started and took off before the crowd reached him.

Air shows were held sporadically during the war years and in 1946, a full-scale show sponsored by the National Aeronautic Association was held at Downsview. This show incorporated the first public demonstration of an airport assault by airborne troops from the Canadian Army Parachute Training Centre at Camp Borden. Paratroopers dropped from three Dakota aircraft and fought for control of the field with soldiers dressed in German uniforms. The Shooting Star from the United States Air Force was the hit of the show. The Globe and Mail report stated "the aircraft looked like a conventional airplane except for the lack of a propeller and the tube projecting from the rear." The twin-seater version of the Shooting Star became the Silver Star training aircraft, more commonly called the T-33 or T-Bird in the RCAF.

In 1949, the Air Show moved to Exhibition Place. That year, and in 1950 and 1951, the RCAF put a Vampire jet aerobatic team into the air every afternoon of the CNE. In 1952, the Toronto Flying Club sponsored the Air Show at the CNE. A RCAF Sabre had to try twice before breaking the sound barrier, providing the crowd with its first opportunity to hear a sonic boom. In the same year, the DHC-2 Beaver floatplane demonstrated its short take-off and landing capabilities -- the development of this STOL technology would launch de Havilland Canada as a world-leading aircraft manufacturer.

The Air Show star in 1953 was the United States Air Force B-36 ten-engine bomber.

But there have been moments of bitter disappointment. When the Canadian designed and built Avro Jetliner made its maiden flight in 1949, it was the world's first jet-powered airliner. The aircraft's appearance at the 1954 Air Show was its swan song. The Jetliner program had been cancelled two years earlier.

The 1954 Air Show was held in June with USAF General Doolittle and aviatrix Jacqueline Cochrane honoured. Don Rogers flew the Avro Jetliner and Michael Cooper-Slipper flew the Avro Flying Test Bed, a Lancaster aircraft fitted with two jet engines and two piston engines. Avro test pilot Jan Zurakowaski flew the CF-100 Avro twin-engined fighter and demonstrated the "Zurabatic Cartwheel."

In 1955, the hit of the show was Vadislov Svab, a 42 year old Czechoslovakian test pilot, flying a two-seater low-wing Czech Molotov Trainer. Also in 1955, breaking the sound barrier was outlawed.

The U.S. Navy aerobatic team, the Blue Angels, appeared at the Toronto show for the first time in 1956, the same year the Canadian International Air Show officially became a feature event at the CNE. The USAF Thunderbirds made their first appearance in 1957.

The Avro Arrow jet fighter also put Canada at the leading edge of aircraft design. Its 1958 flight at the CNE was a showstopper. One year later, a government concerned about costs and an uncertain market scrapped the program. The Royal Air Force Vulcan made its debut that same year.

In 1959, the RCAF Golden Hawks in their six gold, red and white F-86 Sabres were established as Canada's first national military aerobatic team and became regular performers at the Air Show.

In 1962, John McKarski, a parachutist from Elmira, Ontario, landed unhurt on the roof of the grandstand.

Throughout the 50's and 60's the event showcased RCAF aircraft, from the T-33 or T-Bird jet to the Mach 2+ CF-104 Starfighter.

The RCAF Centennaires, forerunners to the Snowbirds, flew in the 1967 show.

By 1969, the Canadian International Air Show had become a four day event - Friday to Monday, and adopted a larger format with military aircraft from the United States and Britain as well as a number of civilian performers in their modified aerobatic aircraft. This same year a Russian agricultural helicopter was the star of the show.

The 1970's brought the first North American public appearance of the SR71 Blackbird, the world's fastest aircraft, and Canada’s first display of the British Airways Concorde. As new technologies pushed sleek aircraft further from gravity's hold, there was an effort made by the Air Show organisers to preserve the romance of flying. A retrospective look at aviation was part of the 1972 show with the "History Segment" featuring aircraft such as a replica Sopwith Camel from WWI and the Corsair and Spitfire from WWII.

In the late 70’s, the Canadian Forces were in the process of selecting a fighter aircraft to replace the aging CF-101 Voodoo and CF-5 Freedom Fighter. So the aircraft under consideration, the Grumann F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and Northrop (now McDonnell Douglas) F-18 Hornet, all put on demonstrations for the Canadian International Air Show. The CF-18 was later chosen the winner.

The 1980's were highlighted with such military aircraft as the Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet, Sea King, Aurora and Chinook, U.S. Marine Corps. Harrier, U.S. Air Force B-52 Bomber, SR-71 Blackbird, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10A Thunderbolt II, and B1-B, U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat, German Air Force Transall, Royal Air Force Vulcan, Tornado and Nimrod and the Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori. Civilian performers have included the Canadair CL-215 waterbomber, Ray Ban Gold Aerobatic Team, Flying Pierces, Frank Ryder, Julie Clark, Patty Wagstaff, Oscar Boesch and Manfred Radius, an MD 500E Olympian Helicopter and a Lockheed 'Electra' 10A.

By the mid 1980's, the international reputation of the CIAS was firmly established. In 1985, the Hawker Hurricane was featured as a reminder of the past. This premier fighter plane was the star of the first Air Show in 1939. Today’s premier fighter planes, the F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18, have a surface ceiling of over 50,000 feet, 10 times greater than the aircraft of 1939.

The 1990 Air Show suffered at the hands of the Gulf crisis when many of the confirmed aircraft were unable to attend.

The 1990's saw the latest in Stealth aircraft with the presentation of the USAF F-117A at the 1991 show. 1992 was highlighted by the daytime and night time (complete with pyrotechnics) performances of Sean Tucker and his Pitts; Sean recently won the Art Scholl Showmanship Award for top civilian performer.

In 1993, the CIAS presented its first-ever Photo Walking Tour at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Aircraft were strategically placed to allow the public to view and photograph such aircraft as the B1-B Bomber, U-2 Dragon Lady and the British Airways Concorde. Also in 1993, the Royal Netherlands Air Force participated at the CIAS for the first time, showcasing the highly versatile F-16 Fighting Falcon.

1994 highlighted such favourites as the USMC Harrier, the RAF Tornado, the USAF F-117 Stealth and the German Phantoms. U.S. civilian acts included aerobatic champions Sean Tucker and Jan Jones.

The 1995 show saw the Snowbirds celebrating their 25th anniversary as well as a salute to the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Europe featuring 2 P-51 Mustangs and a B25 Mitchell Bomber. Military participation included an A10 and F117A Stealth fighter from the USAF, German F4 Phantoms and F16 Fighting Falcons from the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Civilian acts included the debut of Canada’s first civilian aerobatic team The Northern Lights, sailplane pilot Oscar Boesch and the Misty Blues all female skydiving team.

1996 was the year the CIAS launched it’s first full static display at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Called FLIGHTLINE ’96 the static display was a huge success as over two dozen aircraft were on display.

FLIGHTLINE ‘97 was expanded to include upwards of 30 aircraft. The flying display included the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Skyhawks, as well as an F-14D Tomcat from the U.S. Navy. The Royal Netherlands Air Force showcased their F-16 Fighting Falcons and the Royal Air Force returned with the Nimrod submarine hunter. Civilian participation included The French Connection and Matt Chapman.

1998 saw the cancellation of FLIGHTLINE, the static display at Pearson Airport, due to preparations for the show’s 50th anniversary in 1999. The Air Show featured a variety of civilian acts, including Matt Chapman and Mike Goulian, straight from the World Aerobatic Championships in Slovakia, where they placed 3rd and 8th respectively. Also in the show was the Snowbirds, Skyhawks and CF18, The Northern Lights, an F16 Fighting Falcon and A10 Warthog and a fly-by of the B2 Spirit on Saturday.

1999 celebrates 50 years of the Canadian International Air Show at the CNE. The public can expect a spectacular air display, featuring historical and modern aircraft.

Each year the Canadian International Air Show presents something old, something new and something different to maintain its position as the premier air show of its kind in the world. From vintage aircraft to high performance jets, the Canadian International Air Show has paid tribute to the fascinating world of flight - and millions of people have shared in the wonder.


Contact: Diana Spremo, Media Relations Manager, CIAS, (416) 393-6061


Last Updated :08/13/04 19:09 -0400 [jc]