50th airshow a first for Canadian aerobatic pilot

Pete McLeod is an air racer and aerobatic pilot and is making his debut at the Abbotsford Airshow.

Canadian air racer and aerobatic pilot Pete McLeod is making his first appearance at the Abbotsford International Airshow on Friday.

Canadian air racer and aerobatic pilot Pete McLeod is making his first appearance at the Abbotsford International Airshow on Friday.

Pete McLeod has picked the right time to make his inaugural Abbotsford Airshow appearance.

The Canadian air racer and aerobatic flyer will make his debut tomorrow as part of the 50th anniversary event being held at the Abbotsford International Airport.

McLeod arrived in the Lower Mainland on Tuesday to prepare for the show, one of 15 he is doing across Canada this season.

While new to Abbotsford, McLeod has performed in B.C. before.

“Last summer was my first time flying out here. I did a couple of shows over English Bay in conjunction with the Celebration  of Lights festival,” said the 28-year-old pilot, who has also performed at Boundary Bay.

“Abbotsford is one of the bigger air shows in Canada, and North America for that matter, so it’s exciting for me.”

McLeod made a name for himself in 2009 when he became the first Canadian and the youngest pilot to ever compete in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. He has competed all over the world, but said he always enjoys the Canadian crowds, having grown up in northwestern Ontario.

“Canada is my favourite place to fly.”

While an accomplished air racer, his airshow performances require a different kind of flying – freestyle aerobatics – which gives him a little more freedom.

“We get to play around a little more with all the fun things that these wonderful modern aerobatic planes can do.

“I do a solo aerobatics show, a fairly aggressive aerobatics.”

Every pilot has his own style, and McLeod said he is anxious to add his show to Abbotsford’s long history of performances.

In the past, crowds have been caught off-guard by his performances.

“The type of airplane I fly, and my style of flying, is something people don’t always expect an airplane to even be able to do, never mind have they seen it before. It brings a shock factor.”

He said he likes to keep his show busy and moving, and to keep the audience nervous, but entertained.

McLeod will be performing in his Edge 540 – the same aircraft that he races in, with a few alterations to the prop and motor setup.

Now a seven-year veteran on the flying circuit, McLeod said he has loved planes from the very beginning.

“I grew up in a plane. My first ride came when I was six weeks old.”

By the time he was three, he remembers sitting in his father’s lap in the cockpit, handling the plane’s controls.

As a bush pilot in the north, which he calls the “wild west of the flying world,” McLeod learned a few moves that proved helpful in his aerobatic career. He has a passion for speed and performance, making him a natural for the flying world, and he plans to keep on doing what he loves.

“It’s been a wild ride, so to speak.”

The 50th annual Abbotsford International Airshow opens tomorrow and runs Aug. 10-12. There is a full schedule of static and in-air demonstrations. McLeod appears all three days at 3:30 p.m.

For more, visit abbotsfordairshow.com.