From a sunny, blue sky to packed hotels and busy pubs, the effects from the first air show in the Comox Valley in nearly a decade was felt throughout the Valley.
Comox Air Show director Maj. Dwayne Kerr said Saturday’s event was a success and the plan essentially unfolded the way he wanted.
“We had budgeted for 15,000 people … and we got just over that,” he noted.
He added the partnership between BC Transit and the air show worked well, with thousands of patrons using the dedicated park-and-ride service.
“We had planned for about 7,000 cars and we ended up with around 5,000 cars and then the bus themselves had about 3,200 people inbound and about 4,000 people outbound, which is great.”
In addition to vehicular traffic, Kerr noted they had about 400 people riding their bikes to the show.
“All that led to a great combination of people coming and going.”
He explained he did hear a few complaints about traffic flow — primarily at the end of the show near the exit area — and said it’s understandable and will continue to address the issue.
Kerr also said another challenge in the planning stage was receiving governmental approval so close to the actual show.
“(It was the) biggest challenge from our standpoint; in the big scheme of things, the policy had changed. With the news in Ottawa … they are getting really tight on how they are spending taxpayers’ dollars. That same policy affects us,” he said.
“(It) was so brand new that it was brought in mid-stream this fiscal year and it took so long for us to get that approval. Once we did get it, we were full steam ahead, but we didn’t get it until late May.”
Across the airfield, CEO Fred Bigelow of the Comox Valley Airport Commission said things worked out very well for civilian passengers departing and arriving at the terminal.
“Every flight came and went as it should. The co-ordination with the base went exceptionally well. With a full display going on at the air show, our air boss was able to slide our flights in during a break in the action and it worked out very well,” he explained.
He said the flights came and went on time thanks to a variety of factors, including communication and the early arrival of passengers.
“The passengers were understanding and showed up early for their flights with a smile on their faces. We got the right message out to the travelling public and each airline individually contacted their passengers to notify them of the right route to take and when to get (to the airport),” he added.
“Quite frankly, it couldn’t have worked out much better.”
For service providers in the Valley, the economic impacts from the show were felt throughout the weekend.
“We were very excited to have the air show back … it created a great buzz in town,” said Edd Moyes, owner of the Blackfin Pub in Comox.
He noted people were waiting outside for over an hour as the restaurant was packed throughout the evening, and very full throughout Saturday and Sunday.
“We had huge numbers, with a lot of people from out of town. We had extra staff on hand and kept the kitchen open until the last person standing at the door. There were even a lot of people going to the marina, which was quite good to see.”
Hotels were also filled to capacity, said Linda Bridgman, sales and catering services manager of the Best Western Plus Westerly Hotel.
“We were sold out both Friday and Saturday nights, including a full house at the Flying Canoe (West Coast Pub),” she explained.
“There was a variety of visitors from across the province. I met some people from Cloverdale, and saw some Washington State licence plates in the parking lot,” Bridgman added.
As for future shows, Kerr said it’s too early to tell, as the planning depends on the incumbent wing commander.
“(Current 19 Wing commander) Col. (Jim) Benninger is not going to be around in two years’ time,” Kerr explained, adding the earliest possible air show they would consider planning would be in 2015.
— With a file from Renee Andor