AIRSHOW: Historic air shows date back to the 1920s

Abbotsford’s first airshows were held in the late 1920s on a landing strip in the Matsqui Prairie community of Gifford.

The Fokker Triplane

The Fokker Triplane



Abbotsford’s first airshows were held in the late 1920s on a landing strip in the Matsqui Prairie community of Gifford.

Two brothers, Joseph and Bob Lundstrom, became determined to build a plane of their own. With the use of an engine from a disused Oakland car and the help of some mail order plans, the brothers slowly began construction. Their father, Daniel Lundstrom, built a large shop, still standing, to accommodate his sons’ project and a landing strip on the family farm. During the show, 14 planes came from Chilliwack and Vancouver and passengers were able to fly in a Piper Cub for the reasonable fee of a penny a pound.

July 1, 2 and 3, 1948 saw the first airshow held at the Abbotsford airport, built during the Second World War as a flight training school. At the time of the first show, the airport was still home to about 600 people displaced by the disastrous flood that had inundated most of Matsqui in May of that year.

Sponsored by the Abbotsford Lions and the Chilliwack Flying Club, the three-day event attracted 18,000 spectators. Thrill followed thrill as plane after plane took to the air.  Highlights of each day were demonstrations by R.W. “Swede” Ralston, 29-year-old flying marvel, who went up in a D-26 Harvard, and 60-year-old “Pop” Whittier from Seattle who performed a thrilling 5,000 -foot parachute jump, free falling 2500 feet before pulling the ripcord and finally drifting to safety. Dances were held each evening and one third of the proceeds went to the B.C. Flood Relief Fund.

The concept of the airshow as we know it today occurred in 1961, when the Abbotsford Flying Club formed.  The founding 40 members felt the Abbotsford Airport was too valuable a resource to waste.Through the initial support of $700 from the Abbotsford Rotary Club, the first show went ahead with over 14,000 spectators.

In 1963, the crowd of spectators doubled that of the first year and Toby Trowbridge joined the airshow as announcer. His colourful commentaries would make Toby “the voice of the Abbotsford Airshow” for years to come.  1967 saw the first visit of the Golden Centennaires aerobatic flying team.  In 1968 they returned, recreated as the Snowbirds.

Their popularity at Abbotsford played a large role in the Snowbirds becoming a permanent squadron. Attendance also reached an all-time peak of 340,000. Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau opened the 1969 Abbotsford Airshow and proclaimed it Canada’s National Airshow.  The Boeing 747 made its first appearance in Canada at Abbotsford in 1969.

The Airshow continued on into the 1970s, growing in popularity.

The Goodyear Blimp made its first visit in 1971.  In 1974, King Hussein of Jordan, a reported aviation buff, opened the show.

The same year, Toby Trowbridge passed away and Bob Singleton, trained by Toby, took over.

In 1976, the Blue Angels celebrated their 30th anniversary and appeared in their new McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks.

In 1978, Premier Bill Bennett opened the show.  A highlight of 1979 was a flyover by the SR 71 Blackbird, unable to land due to secret material on board.

In 1980, the British built Harrier made its first appearance at Abbotsford.  Frecce Tricolori from Italy, British Airways Concorde, Patrouille de France, Ray Ban Golds, and Russian Antonov 74 – the largest aircraft in the world made first-time performances in 1986.   In 1987, wingwalkers passed a baton mid – air, called the “Abbotsford Pass” in honour of the show and new box seating installed was completely sold out.  Prime Minister Brian Mulroney opened the show in 1989.

Due to the escalating hostilities in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. aircraft demos were cancelled in 1990 and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce initiated its first “Flight Begins” festivities.

An extraordinary number of forest fires kept Conair out of the show for the first time in two decades.

In 1995, the Snowbirds flew a new routine that included a formation during which the wingtips of the aircraft were separated by only one metre.

The early goal of promoting the use of the Abbotsford Airport through an airshow has been enormously successful.

As a result of the airshow’s success, commercial use of the airport has expanded but with wide-ranging public support as strong as ever, both Airport and Airshow authorities are committed to compromises that will allow the Airshow to continue for years to come.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read