Ottawa Ontario – Hey… I Remember That!


Every few weeks or so, you’ll see a new report here about an air show or event that contains some recollections and images from a bygone era.  Some reports will review air shows no longer produced while others may feature some notable past military exercises; all will contain some long-since retired aircraft.  As we here at Classic Warbirds go through our extensive collections of images (slides and negatives as well as digital archives), we often mutter under our breaths “Hey, I remember that…”, and so, can you do the same?


Event:  National Capital Air Show

Location:  Ottawa International Airport,  Ontario Canada (today’s Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport)

Reported Dates:  1990 – 1992 (first 3 years at this location)

The National Capital Air Show moved to Ottawa’s International Airport in 1990.  It was billed as a major part of the capital’s Canada Day weekend celebrations.  Shows featured a varied collection of international military performers, including a Russian Air Force MiG-29 and an Embraer EMB-312 Tucano demonstration in 1990 and the Italian Air Force’s Frecci Tricolori team in 1992.  Of course, Canadian Forces demonstrations usually included at least the CF-188 Hornet and the Snowbirds. Warbird and U.S. military participation, plus select North American civilian performers were “givens” too.  Static displays included a wide selection of military and Canadian government aircraft, including specialized airplanes and helicopters from the National Research Council Canada (NRC). The airport serves the country’s national capital region, and scheduled airline activity operated throughout the day between a pair of intersecting runways.  Some commercial flights operated from the main air show runway in between aerial acts, giving air show spectators an unusual up-close experience of airline passengers waving to them as they taxied past the crowd.

The airport began its life as Hunt Club Field, and later as the Uplands Aerodrome.  During the Second World War, the Canadian Department of National Defense built and operated a training base at the airport, and later expanded its presence to include an important transport hub.  By the late 1950s, Ottawa’s airport was the busiest in Canada, serving both military and civilian needs.  The military side of the airport was known as CFB Uplands.  Air shows and displays followed; one in particular, as noted in the airport’s web site, proved a calamity:

“Construction of the airport terminal building began in 1957. As the project neared completion, a military demonstration proved disastrous; a U.S. [Air Force] F104 Starfighter broke the sound barrier and virtually every window in the structure. There was also significant structural damage inflicted on the building. This mishap added approximately one year to the construction schedule, and $300,000 to the budget of $5 million.”

After being renamed the Ottawa International Airport in 1964, the facility finally received its current name in 1993. Aside from VIP flights, military activity at the (then) former CFB Uplands base was greatly diminished by the mid 1990s when these three air shows were held.  Even with the military drawdown, the National Capital Air Show was a great venue to see a wide variety of Canadian civil and armed forces aircraft.

Ken Kula

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