Date: September 8, 1988
Location: Montreal, Canada
By: Mike King
Newspaper: The Gazette
Tough safety regulations even tighter after European tragedies
Organizers of Expo Air 88 will be looking past the stunt planes to the heavens this weekend in the hope the event won’t be affected by the change of venue or marred by a tragic accident.
St. Hubert, not Mirabel, will be the site of the 10th annual Montreal International Air Show – dubbed Expo Air 88 by the Wings of Hope.
The Wings of Hope, a charitable group that flies supply and rescue missions in western South America, is organizing the show as part of its 1988 fund-raising campaign, which kicked off last Saturday.
Pierre Theroux, Wings of Hope president, told reporters Friday that his group never considered cancelling Expo Air 88 despite a rash of accidents at international air shows in Europe this summer that claimed the lives of more than 50 people and injured nearly 600 others.
The worst and most recent occurred Aug. 28 when Italian pilots crashed during a military air show at the Ramstein Air Force Base in West Germany. Fifty people were killed and another 500 were injured.
Four other people have died and about 50 others have suffered injuries in similar tragedies in Belgium and France.
Those overseas calamities “made us reaffirm our tough rules and regulations,” said Theroux. “We want to assure the participants and spectators of safety.”
When the public gathers for Expo Air 88 on Saturday and Sunday, “they will be in secure areas away from the flights,” he said.
Robert St, Pierre, Wings of Hope secretary treasurer and assistant director of Expo Air 88, said Canada has strict regulations for air shows.
Unlike many European shows, high-speed military precision teams performing here must fly at least 450 metres away from the crowd and no less than 900 metres above the spectators when surpassing speeds of 483 kilometres an hour. The distance above the crowd is halved when pilots are flying slower than 483 km/h.
Military teams are also restricted from flying lower than 90 metres from the runways. Crowds are held back 300 metres from the runways.
Civilian aerobatics teams must fly at least 150 metres above the spectators at speeds of more than 241 km/h and 90 metres high when traveling slower than 241 km/h.
Francois Chenier, Wings of Hope vice-president and Expo Air 88 director, said overall security has been strengthened and emergency procedures improved.
Officers from the St. Hubert police force, Surete du Quebec, the Nicolet police academy and the National Defence Department will be on hand, along with ambulance attendants, personnel from the nearby armed forces base, Transport Canada and about 300 volunteers.
Besides the famous Canadian Snowbirds, some other aircraft will include the Canadian Forces’ Skyhawks parachuting team, CF-18s and KC-135 Strato Tankers, as well as Second World War-vintage A-10 Thunderbolts, hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires.
Ground exhibitions will feature displays from the Canadian War Plane Heritage and the American and Soviet space programs.
Admission is $6 for adults Saturday and Sunday. Children under 12 will be admitted free on Saturday but will have to pay $3 on Sunday.
Theroux noted that the air show has been the largest annual fundraising event since 1985 for the Wings of Hope.
That’s the year Wings of Hope took over the Montreal International Air Show from Transport Canada and changed the name to Expo Air.
Last year’s event raised $225,000 for Wings of Hope, up from $65,000 in 1986 and $25,000 the first year.
Theroux admitted that the change of airports this year may have an effect on attendance. Mirabel has hosted the event for nine years but has become so busy, management couldn’t ensure sufficient time for this year’s show, Theroux explained.