Air show cancellation stuns officials
Airport authority was ready to work around construction
By Mohammed Adam and Randy Boswell
The Ottawa Airport Authority is flabbergasted by the decision of National Capital Air Show organizers to cancel this summer's event.
"We had confirmation in writing two weeks ago that it was going ahead. We were surprised to learn that the air show was cancelled," said airport spokesman Laurent Benoit.
Mr. Benoit explained that because construction of a new terminal is expected to begin in May the airport was unable to offer the site near Riverside Drive that had been the home of the show for years.
Based on a suggestion from air show organizers, the airport instead "offered use of a site southeast of the airport near Albion Road. Mr. Benoit acknowledged that the new location is smaller but said air shows had been organized there before.
"My wanted to use Runway 725 which is where the old air show used to be and we had an agreement to proceed," he said.
"We are a huge air show supporter and we tried to make it happen this year."
Air show organizer John Issenman announced Monday that an event that has been an Ottawa summer landmark for more than a decade had been cancelled because of the construction expected to begin this spring at the airport.
The show is scheduled to return in 2002.
Mr. Issemnan said yesterday that the airport authority had indeed offered the use of another location for the show that was to take place June 2 and 3.
But he said organizers real-lied that it would be impossible to fit the event into the new site, which is about half the size of the old one. And given the time available, it wasn't possible to trim the show.
The fundamental problem, he said, is lack of adequate parking space for the aircraft. Mr. Issenman said top attractions, such as the Snowbirds precision flying team, were consulted about the change in plans and expressed no concerns.
"The airport did make an alternative site available and we do have an agreement to go ahead," Mr. Issenman said.
But when we looked at the site we just couldn't accommodate the show in the space available. We decided to cancel to give us an opportunity to specifically tailor the show in 2002 to fit the size of the space."
"This year's event would have been the 17th annual National Capital Air Show, which Mr. Issenman said is distinguished as the only major show in the world that takes place at an international airport. He promised a great show next year.
"We are going to restructure for 2002 and have the best show possible," he said.
Last year, wet weather cut attendance on the first day of the weekend event. But sunny weather on the Sunday brought out thousands of people to watch the Snowbirds, the Sky Hawks parachute team and other performers.
The expansion of the airport, announced in October, is set to begin this spring and will eventually include a new passenger terminal to open in 2004. In all, more than $300 million will be spent adding more parking space and carrying out a host of other improvements to the airport.