The Blue Angels wowed tens of thousands of people during this year’s Abbotsford International Airshow. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Blue Angels help drive attendance increase at Abbotsford Airshow

Around 90,000 people attended this year’s event; officials to re-evaluate traffic plans for next year

Attendance was up considerably at this year’s Abbotsford International Airshow, but that also brought additional challenges.

Officials believe around 90,000 people took in this year’s event, airshow spokesperson Jadene Mah said Monday. That would mark a significant increase from the approximately 75,000 that attended last year.

“We knew the Blue Angels would bring strong crowds, they haven’t been to Abbotsford in 15 years,” Mah said. She said organizers had been aiming for around 30,000 people to attend each day and those figures appear to have been achieved.

The growth, though, came with some pains, as many of those hoping to attend Friday’s night show complained that heavy traffic made it impossible to make it into the airport before the Blue Angels performed. Mah said limited access points and a crash contributed to the gridlock, as did heavy Friday afternoon traffic.

“Getting a large volume of people onto an airport [for a] special event is a challenge,” she said.

The following day, organizers deployed more personnel and updated their traffic plan to reduce complaints.

Mah said organizers will look at making changes for next year’s. The strength of presales may spark discussion about allowing those buying tickets ahead of times to enter at both gates, Mah said. And the night show, now in its fifth year, continues to grow in popularity.

Saturday’s event proceeded as planned, but soon after it ended, a historic plane offering “Living History Flights” crashed to the ground, hurting all five people on board, including two who suffered serious injuries.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is still investigating and Mah said officials will await their report before making any decisions based on the incident. She hailed first responders on scene for their rapid reaction to the crash.

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