COLUMN: Being proud of what we are and can be

The roar and thunder of jets, the growl of piston-driven aircraft that have shattered the skies over Abbotsford this past weekend are thrilling to many, an annoyance to some, but as the BC Aerospace Showcase held Friday at the airport demonstrated, what we really were hearing was the sound of a remarkably powerful economic engine.

The roar and thunder of jets, the growl of piston-driven aircraft that have shattered the skies over Abbotsford this past weekend are thrilling to many, an annoyance to some, but as the BC Aerospace Showcase held Friday at the airport demonstrated, what we really were hearing was the sound of a remarkably powerful economic engine.

Abbotsford, British Columbia and the rest of Western Canada are part of, and poised to become, a dynamic industry that can help drive our economy in the future.

The Aerospace Showcase, hosted in part by the City of Abbotsford, took place Friday morning at YXX’s star tenant, Cascade Aerospace. Inside that massive facility, undergoing maintenance, were aircraft demonstrating the diversity of work that is being done here. There was a plane owned by First Air, a Canadian historic airline serving our country’s northern reaches, a WestJet 737, a Lynden air transport that has replaced the trucks that carry goods from the southern 48 to Alaska and a couple of Canadian military C-130s. All in one building, and all being serviced by British Columbians.

And that example, as the showcase ably demonstrated, is just one part of a large aerospace industry that our province, and particularly Abbotsford Airport, with our proximity to the United States and the Asia-Pacific region, will with innovation and investment continue to grow.

The Americans like to tell you that the sound of military jets is the sound of freedom. In B.C., the sound of any jet is the sound of money going – one way or the other – into our pockets. From small outfits to big ones like MacDonald Dettwiler in Richmond and Cascade, from an engineer based in Vancouver who works for a U.S. military contractor, to developers of high-tech wizardry, the dollars roll into our economy and drive an economic bus that so few notice other than when a passenger jet flies over, or the weekend roar of Abbotsford Air Show makes its yearly presence known.

As someone who has always held a great fondness for flight, it is fascinating to see the gadgetry – pilotless drone aircraft, and fully computerized instrument panels even on small floatplanes.

Yet with all this fancy stuff of now and the future, it appears there are fewer people seeking their commercial pilot licence today than in the past few years.

Seems that competition for flying jobs is so great, airlines and others requiring pilots can be tight with salaries. Thus, return on the huge investment in commercial flying lessons creates a deterrent that fewer are willing to risk.

However, like any other industry, there are peaks and valleys, and I’d not be surprised that within a few years, the demand for pilots will exceed the supply, wages will go up and students will flock back to the classroom and the cockpits.

For me, however, the Abbotsford Air Show and the occasional flight in the rear seat of restored Piper Super Cruiser, is about as far into flying as my future will take me.

But the air show still kindles excitement, and often provides the dream that leads youngsters into aviation. It is also a showcase of pride, not only for what we can achieve on an economic front, but in the skill of our military, in our national achievements, and in our nation as a whole.

I saw that pride demonstrated not only at the airport this past Friday but, after leaving the site, there spread over the roof of a modest home in Clearbrook was a massive Canadian flag, visible I’m certain to all those visiting pilots who entertained in the skies over Abbotsford this weekend.

That family’s act made me as proud of our people and our country as anything I saw on the airfield.

markrushton@abbynews.com