Notes from our Past – 1969
1969 was an important year for aerospace, aviation, the AFC and the Airshow.
By Steve Stewart
For AFC and AIAS, the year started in January with the AFC buying-out the EAA Chapter 85 half-interest in the Airshow, which left the AFC as sole sponsor. From then on, the AFC had full responsibility for producing the show every year for almost three decades. The relationship with EAA Ch85 had started in 1964, and had worked well, but by 1968 there was serious conflict, and a parting of ways was the mutually agreed solution.
The maiden flight of the Boeing 747 was in February. This was an aircraft destined to utterly transform the business of air travel, by making it more accessible than could possibly have been imagined at that time. A 747 in Pan Am livery came to the Airshow in August that year and performed a series of low passes along runway 18-36; which would have also involved climb outs and approaches directly over Clearbrook.
A much briefer flash of achievement was the Tupolev 144, the Russian SST. It actually first flew late in 1968, but it had a series of technical problems, and a crash at the Paris Airshow in 1973; and its time in service was short. However, early in 1969 the Airshow society sent a message of congratulation to Moscow, along with an invitation to attend the show. (In fact, the Russians were invited every year from 1965 onward.) The Tu144 did not come to the show, but Mr. Vassili Myshkov, Head of the Soviet Trade Representation in Ottawa did attend, and at the Airshow Banquet on August 7 th , he presented a model of the Tu144 to the AFC and AIAS. That model is still on display over the bar in the AFC lounge.
The1969 airshow was opened on Friday August 8 th by Prime Minister P.E. Trudeau. He was scheduled to speak at 12:50, followed by a fly-past CF5 demonstration at 13:00. They came thundering in at precisely 13:00 – dead on time. Pierre was still talking and had been unaware of their near-silent approach from the west at over 400 mph. When the noise died down, he was heard to mutter “I guess I might as well shut up and sit down”.
The next display was the Boeing 747 in Pan Am livery, and it was followed by a display by two Mini- Mustangs, one red, flown by John Spronk and one black, flown by Scott Nelskog of Edmunds Wa. It resulted in the only fatality in the history of the airshow. After passing each other midfield at high speed and 50 feet altitude, both aircraft climbed out and started snap rolls to the right. Scotty was travelling south, and two thirds into the roll his nose dropped. Only instantaneous correction could have saved him. He hit the runway in a vertical dive and was killed. There were suggestions that lingering wake turbulence from the 747 had been to blame, but this possibility was dismissed by the technical investigation on the basis of compelling evidence. Scotty had a total 618 hours of flying time, including 62 hours on type, but he was relatively inexperienced with aerobatics, having only 12 hours total aerobatic time, including just three hours on type. It appeared that this was his first attempt at low-level aerobatics. The investigation concluded that “.. the pilot in all probability became momentarily confused while inverted and reversed the required control column movement
while attempting to bring the nose up during the roll.” The coroner’s report did not attach blame to any person. The DoT had asked the accident investigator if there were any problems that might be eliminated in future, and he responded with a recommendation that there was scope for more positive control of safety by requiring that pilots performing low level aerobatic manouevres at airshows should be required to demonstrate competence before a Civil Aviation Inspector.