A celebration of Northern aviation is bringing pilots and performers from across the country to tour 97 communities this summer.
The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour spans all three territories as well as a few communities in Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland.
Thirty-one communities in the Northwest Territories are scheduled to have shows over their communities, with 11 receiving a “wheels-down” event where the airplanes will land and community members can meet the performers.
The show kicks off in Fort Liard on June 2 with a wheels-down stop. Fort Liard Mayor Steven Steeves said the hamlet already has plans to give performers a true Northern welcome.
“We’ve got our kids putting up legends and stories … We’re giving them a big drum dance and everything, too,” Steeves said. “We want to show Canada, the world, what we’re all about.”
Hamlet recreation co-ordinator Sophie Kirby said community members are excited about the event.
The hamlet will be putting on a feast before the drum dance, both of which will take place June 1 the evening before the airshow is scheduled to start.
Kirby said the plan is for the show to be done over the Liard River, adding the hamlet plans to have lifeguards on hand as well.
“Hopefully the entire community will be there for the event,” she stated in an e-mail.
Some members of the show’s crew are already in the community for the tour’s education component. Nancy McClure, executive director for the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour, said that segment is geared toward encouraging young people to pursue dreams of a career in aviation.
“The education piece is all literacy-based. A lot of it will be conversations our pilots have on the ground with kids as they talk about the possible career choices they might be looking at,” she said.
She and her team sees aviation as a career that could bring Northern youth back to their home communities to work and live.
“We’re really focusing on the fact that if you look at Northern people (in) these careers, they’re going to come back home hopefully,” she said.Some of the challenges the team has faced include how to bring in proper aviation gas to some of the smaller communities, securing accommodations and finding sponsors to help cover the cost of the tour.
Most of the project has been driven by volunteers.
McClure said the team is still fundraising, and is also crowdfunding with an initiative that allows people to purchase their own personal kilometre of the tour for $25.
The airshow itself is free of charge, unlike many of its southern counterparts. McClure said when she signed on as executive director, she decided the show needed to something everyone could come to see – despite any financial implications of running a free show.
“We did not compromise on our original vision. That was what was really important to me, because the point of the project was that we would bring this to everyone,” she said.
“We could have solved some of our problems by making this a paid airshow … but we didn’t want people to be excluded because they couldn’t pay.”
The tour will also be carbon-neutral, McClure said. The team partnered with Carbonzero, a Canadian carbon offset firm, by purchasing “carbon credits” to be re-invested elsewhere in the country.
“We made it a priority,” McClure said.
“We’re not only carbon-sensitive, we’re actually net zero on this project.
“The show was developed partly as a way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, but also as a way to celebrate the tradition of aviation in the North.
“We really wanted this to have more of a legacy approach,” McClure said.
“The North-south corridor was built with airplanes, not trains, and that continues to be the case. So how would we bring an event to many of these locations? We’d have to fly an event in. The airshow grew from that.”
Communities will have up to nine aerobatic performances. The team’s Yellowknife stop will include a demonstration jet as well.
Among the performers are Anna Serbinenko, who McClure said is the only performing female airshow pilot in Canada, as well as Bud and Ross Granley.
“In airshow circles in North America, (Bud) is kind of the grandpa of air show performers. He is a legacy,” McClure said.
NWT tour dates
June 2 – Fort Liard
June 7 – Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic
June 8 – Inuvik
June 9 – Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, Paulatuk
June 10 – Aklavik
June 11 – Tuktoyaktuk
June 12 – Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake
June 13 – Norman Wells, Deline, Tulita
June 14 – Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River, Wrigley, Nahanni Butte, Sambaa K’e, Fort Providence
June 17 – Fort Smith
June 18 – Kakisa, Enterprise, Fort Resolution, Lutsel K’e, Wekweeti, Behchoko, Whati, Gameti
June 19 – Ulukhaktok
July 8 – Hay River
July 9 – Yellowknife