Canadian International Air Show

The Canadian International Air Show (CIAS) is an annual air show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The show is an aeronautical display of military, government and civilian aircraft, primarily from Canada and the United States. The show takes place along Toronto's waterfront for three days during the Canadian Labour Day weekend. The show began in 1946 and has been held at Exhibition Place since 1949.[1]

Canadian International Air Show
The Snowbirds fly past the CN Tower during the 2007 show
GenreAir show
Location(s)Toronto, Ontario
Coordinates43°38′0″N 79°25′0″W
ActivityAerobatic displays
Organized byCanadian International Air Show


Toronto was the site of numerous air shows as the city developed into a centre of air transportation and aircraft manufacturing in the early twentieth century. The Canadian International Air Show began in 1946 when the National Aeronautical Association of Canada attracted overflow crowds to a show at de Havilland Canada manufacturing plant at Downsview Airport. The show became an annual event. The air show moved to Exhibition Place in 1949. In 1956, the air show became affiliated with the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).[1]


The official CIAS takes place over the Canadian Labour Day Weekend, which coincides with the closing weekend of the CNE. The start time for the show is scheduled for 12:00 pm with the show ending at approximately 3:00 pm each afternoon.[2] The CIAS practice session is usually held on the day before the official CIAS, taking place between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm[3]

The show is performed over Lake Ontario directly south of Exhibition Place. It can be best viewed from Exhibition Place or Ontario Place, although the show is visible from any other lakefront site, especially Marilyn Bell Park or Coronation Park. Performers fly in from Pearson, as well as the island airport on nearby Toronto Islands. Admission to the air show is free; however, viewing from Exhibition Place requires paid admission to the CNE.[4]

There is no static display of aircraft.[4][5] A photo tour at Pearson had been introduced in 1993 and a full static display in 1996. Although a success, the display was cancelled by the time of the 1998 air show.[6]

Local opposition

The airshow is unpopular with many nearby residents who object to the noise created by the jet fighters participating in the show and others who object to the military participation.[7] It has been noted that the noise of the jet fighter demonstrations specifically is similar to that experienced by persons in active war zones.[8] In 2016, a Toronto Star columnist noted, "that in a city with a large population of refugee newcomers and people who have experienced the trauma of war it is insulting, invasive, and violent".[8] Since 2012, during the airshow weekend, the Wikipedia article about the show has been repeatedly vandalized as a form of protest against the airshow, a phenomenon noted by the local Toronto media.[9][10]

According to the City of Toronto, the air show "complies with all regulations, including those published by Transport Canada relating to noise."[11]


The air show is typically a mix of Canadian and United States military aircraft, private aerobatic performers and civilian aircraft flypasts. The air show is often used by the Government of Canada to display new aircraft in the use of the government, such as search and rescue aircraft. On occasion, the air show has displayed unique civilian aircraft, such as the Concorde, and military aircraft of other nations. Flypasts have often included heritage military aircraft. The air show has included demonstrations of parachuting, aerial fire fighting and search and rescue missions.

Regular performers include the Snowbirds, other Canadian Armed Forces aircraft, the United States Air Force (USAF), and the United States Navy (USN).[12][13][14] Past performers have included the Royal Canadian Air Cadets,[13][14] the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association,[13] Vintage Wings of Canada,[12] as well as private aerobatics teams,[12][13][14] and commercial airlines.

Notable appearances include;

Accidents and incidents during air display

  • 1946: United States P-80 Shooting Star overstressed during aerial display with wrinkles actually appearing in the fuselage. Aircraft was returned to Dayton on flatbed truck.[22]
  • September 20, 1952: Royal Canadian Air Force Avro Canada CF-100 Mk.3T piloted by S/L R.D. Schultz made a 500-knot high speed pass with vertical pull up, which overstressed the aircraft. The aircraft recovered to North Bay successfully.[23]
  • September 19, 1953: Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair Sabre 4, piloted by S/L W.R. Greene crashed into Lake Ontario, killing the pilot. The accident aircraft attempted loop recovery without sufficient altitude and hit Lake Ontario. A T-33 formation team also performing in the show shortened their performance due to low cloud and rain, and had entered clouds during looping maneuvers.[24]
  • September 2, 1966: United States Navy Blue Angels pilot Lt. Cmdr. Dick Oliver was killed when he crashed his F-11 Tiger into a breakwater at the Toronto Island Airport.[25] The airplane was travelling west-to-east across the exhibition waterfront, lost altitude and crashed. Debris injured two bystanders at the Island airport.
  • September 5, 1976: A De Havilland DH-83C Fox Moth spun into Lake Ontario. The aircraft came to rest approximately 50 – 75 feet from spectators on the shoreline in approximately 15 feet of water. The pilot, Garth Martin, directed rescuers to a passenger, George Benedik, who was submerged in the wreck. Toronto Harbour Police (THP) Leading Hand (L/H) Richard Riekstins dove into the water three times before extracting Benedik from the wreck. Benedik was unconscious and without a pulse when loaded into a rescue boat. Rescuers successfully revived Benedik with external heart massage and mouth to nose artificial resuscitation (due to facial injuries). L/H Riekstins was later presented the Toronto Harbour Police Commissioners' Award of Merit medal for "heroism and dedication to duty".[26]
  • September 2, 1977: A Fairey Firefly crashed after attempting to pull up after a manoeuvre. The pilot, Allen Ness, who was a founding member of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, stalled the aircraft and was killed.[27]
  • September 3, 1989: Canadian Forces Snowbird pilot Captain Shane Antaya died when, after a midair collision, his Canadair CT-114 Tutor crashed into Lake Ontario. During the same accident, team commander Major Dan Dempsey safely ejected from his aircraft.[28]
  • September 2, 1995: Seven Royal Air Force crew members were killed when their Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR.2P stalled during a low altitude turn and crashed into Lake Ontario.[29]
  • September 6, 1998: Canadian Forces SkyHawks Parachute Team Master Corporal Andre-Luc Bisson suffered a compound leg fracture while landing during a parachute jump. His parachute got tangled in tree branches during tricky wind conditions. Three other members of the team landed outside the landing zone, two into spectators and one hitting a car. The previous day a team member landed on Lake Shore Boulevard.[30]
  • August 23, 1949: During practice, two Royal Canadian Navy Seafires collided over Malton. The commanding officer, LCdr Clifford "Clunk" Watson, and Lt. Charles Elton were killed.[31]
  • September 5, 1957: During practice, Royal Canadian Air Force Avro Canada CF-100 Mk.4B pulled up, flamed out, went into inverted spin and crashed. F/Os H.R. Norris and R.C. Dougall were killed.[32][33]
  • September 1, 2000: En route to aerial display, Helicopter Enstrom F28A bearing registration N9244 departed Toronto City Centre Airport with a fibreglass moose, known as Bruce the Moose, under hoist. At approximately 100 feet the sling hook failed and the moose fell to the ground approximately 200 feet from the departure point, just off of airport property. Although Bruce suffered minor damage he was able to perform his duties at the air show.[34]
  • September 4, 2000: En route to aerial display, Canadian Forces Snowbird Demonstration Team (431 Squadron) departed Toronto Pearson International Airport as a formation. Approximately 3 nautical miles (NM) east of the airport an emergency was declared, the formation turned south and climbed to approximately 3,500 feet. Approximately, 6 NM south of the airport Snowbird 4 requested a landing. Snowbird 4's tail had collided in mid-air with Snowbird 1's left wing leading edge and belly smoke tank.[35][36]


  1. "Canadian International Air Show Historical Plaque".
  2. "Canadian International Air Show - Toronto Air Show - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  3. "CIAS Home Page". Archived from the original on September 8, 2009. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
  4. CIAS FAQs Archived March 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  5. CIAS Show Information Archived April 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. "1949–1999 CIAS at the CNE". Archived from the original on February 14, 2011.
  7. O'Neill, Lauren. "Toronto is already complaining about the air show". blogTO. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  8. "Air show too traumatic for newcomers who escaped war - Toronto Star". Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  9. "Someone keeps trolling the Air Show's Wikipedia page". Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  10. "10 People Who Hate The Goddamn Toronto Air Show". Now Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  11. "Complaints - aircraft noise - low flying - planes - helicopters - Canadian International Air Show noise". City of Toronto. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  12. 2007 Lineup Archived July 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. 2008 Lineup Archived July 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  14. 2009 Lineup Archived September 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  15. "2005 Lineup". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011.
  16. "Canadian International Air Show - Toronto Air Show - Performers". Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  17. "2001 Lineup". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011.
  18. "". Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  19. "2003 Lineup". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011.
  20. "1998 Lineup". Archived from the original on July 8, 2011.
  21. "Ghost of a flea". Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  22. Dempsey, Daniel V. A Tradition of Excellence: Canada's Airshow Team Heritage. Victoria, BC: High Flight Enterprises, 2002. p. 45. ISBN 0-9687817-0-5.
  23. Dempsey, Daniel V. A Tradition of Excellence: Canada's Airshow Team Heritage. Victoria, BC: High Flight Enterprises, 2002. p. 89. ISBN 0-9687817-0-5.
  24. Dempsey, Daniel V. A Tradition of Excellence: Canada's Airshow Team Heritage. Victoria, BC: High Flight Enterprises, 2002. p. 86. ISBN 0-9687817-0-5.
  25. "Richard Carl Oliver Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy". Arlington National Cemetery Website. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  26. [The Toronto Star Monday, September 6, 1976 "Air crash horrifies thousands at CNE"
  27. ADF-Serials (April 2005). "ADF Aircraft Serial Numbers – RAN N1 Fairey Firefly". Retrieved April 22, 2010.
  28. "Snowbirds Website: In Memory of Fallen Snowbirds". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009.
  29. "Accident Description British Aerospace Nimrod MR.2P". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. September 19, 2004. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  30. Boyle, Theresa (September 7, 1998). "Air show paratrooper hurt when team blown off course". Toronto Star.
  31. Dempsey, Daniel V. A Tradition of Excellence: Canada's Airshow Team Heritage. Victoria, BC: High Flight Enterprises, 2002. pages 48–51. ISBN 0-9687817-0-5.
  32. Air Force Association of Canada. Search: "Norris, F/L Howard Russell" Archived March 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  33. Dempsey, Daniel V. A Tradition of Excellence: Canada's Airshow Team Heritage. Victoria, BC: High Flight Enterprises, 2002. p. 200. ISBN 0-9687817-0-5.
  34. CADORS report for N9244
  35. CADORS report for SNOWBIRD4
  36. CT114172 Tutor and CT114006 Tutor, archived version at the Wayback Machine.
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