If advance ticket sales are an indication, spectators are as excited about the 2022 Cold Lake Air Show as the organizers are.

It’s far from certain that pandemic restrictions won’t affect the event, but the planning committee is working on the assumption that the show will go on. Early sales show ticket buyers share that confidence.

With the US Navy Blue Angels lined up for 2020, the show that was eventually cancelled due to Covid, the air show had its highest-ever December sales. “For this year, when we launched our sales in December, we actually surpassed the sales from the cancelled 2020 show,” says Cold Lake Air Show committee chair Major Kael Rennie. 

“That shows that there’s a very strong interest in the air show, and in getting out and doing things public again.” Rennie said.

This year’s headliner will be the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter. The Raptor wowed the crowd at the Cold Lake show in 2018, and Rennie says Cold Lake impressed the Raptor team in turn.

“They loved the Cold Lake Air Show,” he said. “They loved everything about it. They loved the area, they loved the experience, and that’s a testament to our hosting team.”

“We’ve put a ton of effort into making sure that all the performers are well taken care of. And that’s what creates the buzz in the industry, because word of mouth is absolutely gold.

“When the team came here in 2018, they had so much fun. And the demo pilot for 2022 actually ferried the F-22 down from Alaska for the 2018 show. He was not the demo pilot then, but he stayed for the weekend and he was like, ‘this is such an amazing show.’

“And we’re going to put on another great show for him, and he’s going to do the same for us,” Rennie said.

The full lineup will be announced in the coming weeks. Rennie said perennial favourites like the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team are definitely in the program.

Also confirmed is 80-year-old aerobatic pilot Gord Price, flying his Russian-designed Yakovlev YAK-50 aircraft. Price is retiring after this season.

“He was in the RCAF back in the 70s and flew in Cold Lake,” Rennie said. “This is going to be his farewell tour to the air show industry, so he really wanted to come back to Cold Lake and see his old stomping grounds. We’re super excited to have him as one of our civilian performers.”

The air show runs on July 16 and 17. The City of Cold Lake is hosting its Full Throttle Festival on Friday July 15 with family-friendly activities in the daytime and a beer garden in the evening. Air show performers will be on hand to meet the public.

Rennie says the committee is also planning to invite “front-line heroes” to attend Friday’s air show rehearsal as special guests.

“We’re looking at identifying various groups and bringing them in for what we’ll call their private little air show at the Friday rehearsal day,” he said. 

“We’ve been looking at bringing in a segment of the hospital, the RCMP, medics, and staff people that are getting us through Covid-19 and bringing them in for a bus tour, and they’ll get to watch the rehearsal. And then we’ll throw in some other things where they can get up close and personal with some of the jets and the crew.”

Special announcements and flypasts during the weekend shows will also address the “Salute to the Front Line Heroes” theme.

The F-22 Raptor flies alongside a vintage P-51 Mustang at the 2018 Cold Lake Air Show. RAPTOR DEMO TEAM/ FACEBOOK