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USAF F-35s Star at AERO Gatineau-Ottawa 2019 Air Show

F35B MCAS Beaufort

By James Careless 

A USAF 35A’s death-defying aerobatics dazzled reporters and VIPs at the Aéroport exécutif de Gatineau-Ottawa on Friday September 6, 2019, on the opening day of the AERO Gatineau-Ottawa 2019 Air Show. The combination of rolls and loops, vertical climbs, and slow/high-speed passes made clear that the F-35 is a truly impressive aircraft – and a worthy contender in Canada’s Future Fighter competition.

The event, which runs Friday through Sunday, stars two F-35As from the United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demo Team. Given that the AERO air show is held in Gatineau, Quebec just across the river from Ottawa, the F-35As ensured a big audience for Lockheed Martin’s Future Fighter entry. (This is one of only two 2019 non-US appearances for the USAF F-35 Demo Team.)        

The linkage of the USAF’s F-35As to the Future Fighter competition wasn’t lost on retired RCAF Colonel Chris Hadfield, who is piloting a Spitfire Mk IX (owned by Vintage Wings of Canada) at the show. “When you buy something, there’s sales,” Colonel Hadfield told CDR in the VIP area. “A very strong contender for a lot of years has been the F-35. Today, we’ll all get a very visceral chance to see just what that aircraft can do.”

“I would love to fly an F-35,” Colonel Hadfield added. “But I think they only make single seaters, and no one’s asking me to fly. He then quipped, “were you asking?”

The RCAF Snowbirds’ Captain Sarah Dallaire would also like a chance to put the F-35 through its paces. “That would be awesome,” she said.

The Gatineau air show is certainly a great opportunity for event sponsor Lockheed Martin to show off the F-35 to the people making this procurement decision. But the F-35A’s appearance is also a major boost for AERO Gatineau-Ottawa 2019 Air Show, which has expanded its run from one to three days this year. In promotional terms, the F-35A demo is a win-win-win deal for the aircraft manufacturer, the air show, and the paying public.

Meanwhile, the F-35As aren’t the only stars in town. Also flying above the Gatineau airport are the Snowbirds and the CF-18 Hornet Demo Team, plus retired Colonel Hadfield piloting the Spitfire Mk IX. Other aerial performers include a Mustang IV, a replica WWII Japanese Zero, a Fleet Finch II biplane, Harvard Mark IV, and H-101 Salto glider flown by world-renowned pilot Manfred Radius. All told, more than a hundred aircraft will be here during the event (either aloft or on the ground); putting the pair of F35-As in good company.

Still, the USAF’s F-35As are bound to dominate media coverage of AERO Gatineau-Ottawa 2019. Given that the Future Fighter competition has shrunk down to three entrants – Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s Super Hornet, and Saab’s Gripen – this is a good time for the F-35A to shine. Judging by its jaw-dropping performance on Friday September 6th, it is up to the job.

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