Bob Schmitz and Case Grypma of the Nelson Pilots Association are looking for volunteers to help with this year’s Flightfest

Flightfest spreads its wings

Nelson’s annual Flightfest will take things up a notch this year, with the addition of a full-fledged air show.

Nelson’s annual Flightfest will take things up a notch this year, with the addition of a full-fledged air show.

“It’s going to be really exciting,” says Case Grypma of the Nelson Pilots Association, which has organized the event for over a decade. “It’s a whole festival, but in celebration of flight.”

The Saturday, August 6 show will include a fly-by by vintage World War II military planes, Bill Carter’s special aerobatics, and the grand finale, John Mrazek’s L-29 Delfin jet demo.

More modern Canadian military aircraft are expected as well: a new Harvard II NATO trainer and a SAR Buffalo will be on display and do routines. Also in the mix of flying demonstrations is Paul Hajduk’s sailplane magic.

“He does a full set of choreographed aerobatic maneuvers,” Grypma says. “It’s very slow, graceful, and artistic. There’s no engine at all. He has to finish his performance and then land right in front of the crowd.”

Last year’s event attracted local and visiting pilots from across BC, Alberta, and the US — plus someone who flew from Ontario. Over 3,500 people passed through the gates, and a similar size crowd is expected this time.

“Last year we focused on general aviation,” Grypma says. “We had 40 different airplanes, from homebuilt to executive aircraft. This year the focus is on more of an aerial display, more flying activities.”

The date is chosen so as not to conflict with other air shows or major events, and will go ahead rain or shine.

“What’s really bailed us out in the past in bad weather is some of the most amazing performances by the Trail Model Aircraft Association,” Grypma explains. “They do quarter-scale or one-third scale aircraft. They’re a crowd pleaser. It’s mind-boggling what they can do.”

The model aerobatic routines fill the gap between take-offs and landings of other aircraft.

Putting on such a spectacle doesn’t come cheap. Grypma says they’ve been blessed with “absolutely astounding” corporate support that has raised over $30,000.

Still, that’s a relatively small amount for an air show, and many performers are cutting their rates to come here. “They realize Nelson is a unique place in the annals of aviation,” Grypma says. “It’s small, grassroots community airports like this that provide the backbone to the whole transportation system.”

He also notes that next year will mark 100 years since the first flight in Nelson, making this year’s event a practice run for an even bigger celebration.

Gates open at 8 for the pancake breakfast, opening ceremonies are at 11, and then there will be a feature performance each hour until 4 p.m. Aircraft rides and kids activities will also be available. Admission is by donation.

Grypma says they still need more volunteers, especially to help with parking airplanes, meet and greet, and set up of the grounds and food services.

Contact Grypma at 250-505-3249 or, or club president Bob Schmitz at 250-509-0395. The tentative schedule and other details are available at

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