Air-show security tighter after crashes in Europe

Date: September 3, 1988
Location: Montreal, Canada
By: Mike King
Newspaper: The Gazette
Page: A3

The 10th annual Montreal International Air Show will take off in St. Hubert as scheduled next weekend despite the recent tragedies at similar events in Europe.

There was no question of cancelling the show after about 50 people were killed and another 500 injured at a military air show in West Germany last Sunday, organizers told a news conference yesterday.

No ‘fly overs’

Pierre Theroux, president of Wings of Hope which is organizing the show, told The Gazette there will be no “fly overs” at Expo Air – the name given the Montreal aerobatics demonstration since it became his organization’s main fundraising event in 1985.

Unlike the case at some European air shows, spectators at Expo Air 88 “will be in secure areas away from the flights,” Theroux.

“Recent events (in Europe) made us reaffirm our tough regulations,” Theroux told reporters yesterday.

Robert St. Pierre, Wings of Hope secretary-treasurer and assistant director of Expo Air 88, said there are strict Canadian military regulations that must be followed at international air shows.

Military precision teams must fly 450 metres away from spectators and no less than 900 metres above the crowd when surpassing speeds of 483 km/h.

Theroux said acrobatic teams are always carefully screened to weed out pilots with a reputation for taking risks.

Event director Francois Chenier said security has been tightened this year and additional emergency procedures added to guarentee Expo Air 88will be as safe as possible.

Chenier said police from the city of St. Hubert, Surete du Quebec, the Police Institute of Quebec and the Department of National Defence will be on hand for the two-day show, Sept. 10-11. St. John Ambulance as well as personnel from the nearby Armed Forces base and Transport Canada will also be added to the estimated 300 regular volunteers.

Although the show has been moved to St. Hubert from Mirabel for the first time, Theroux hope it will maintain its popularity.

“It was an enormous success last year,” he said, adding that Expo Air is the country’s second-largest air show.

“We were a close second to Abbotsford,” he said, referring to the annual show in British Columbia.

String of disasters

The string of European air-show disasters this year includes:

  • Ramstein Air Force Base in West Germany where Italian pilots crashed last Sunday, killing about 50 people and injuring 500;
  • Kleine-Brogel Air Force base in Belgium, where Finnish pilot was also killed last Sunday when his small aircraft crashed;
  • Mulhouse Airport in France, where an Air France plane carrying 130 guests crashed June 26, killing three people and injuring 50;
  • Hanover, West Germany, where a British military helicopter crashed May 7, killing two people.
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