On looking back, Bob Singleton’s love of airshows began about 1964.
Now in his fifth decade of airshow narrating, Singleton will be announcing Quesnel’s Skyfest airshow Aug. 4 – 5.
His announcing career was kick-started when, as a local radio personality, he’d broadcast live from the Abbotsford Airshow.
Also working at the same radio station, Toby Trowbridge was the airshow announcer and in 1969 asked Singleton to be his assistant.
“Back then you needed to study, there’s a language of areobatics called Aresti, a diagramatical description pilots use in the cockpit,” Singleton said.
“I learned it because it was used by the pilots but now, not so much.”
He added announcers still need to be able to identify both military and civilian aircraft.
His first solo announcing was in 1972 in Penticton.
“It was scary doing the first one on my own,” he said.
However, a few years later he was the primary announcer for the Abbotsford Airshow. In 1986 he was chosen to narrate the aviation events at EXPO 86.
Singleton has entertained and informed millions of aviation fans at hundreds of airshows from coast-to-coast in Canada and the United States.
Unlike the United States that has quite a few professional announcers, Singleton said Canada has maybe five he’d call professional.
“Canada has a relatively short airshow season,” he said.
“I remember an early Victoria Day show in Alberta, I set my radio to get up early and the first words were ‘snow should end by noon.’
“The snow did end by noon, it warmed up and by the next day we were in short sleeve shirts.”
He added most shows aren’t scheduled before the first part of June and not much past the first of October.
Despite having retired from both broadcasting and extensive travelling to announce airshows in 1999, Singleton still enjoys keeping his hand in the business.
He especially enjoys smaller community airshows.
“Small airshows are important to keep people in the community aware of what’s happening in aviation, but more importantly, airshows are important for tourism, they do so much for a community,” he said.
“Airshows are different, they draw people. Everyone looks up when they see airplane.”
However, Singleton said its becoming very difficult to hold airshows, especially since 9/11.
“The military want more security to participate and insurance costs have skyrocketed, overall costs are high,” he said.
“And you’re never sure about the weather, its very risky.
“Hats off to the people in Quesnel for holding an airshow.”
For every airshow, Singleton said there are basic ingredients including excellent safety measures, but also the sequencing of acts must be both entertaining and safe (each pilot and plane must safely take off and land) as well as a balance of acts like good aerobatics, a couple of antique aircraft, jets always attract people and even ultralights are part of most airshows.
“You try to cover as many bases as you can,” he said.
Quesnel Skyfest, Aug. 4 – 5 is still in need of volunteers and anyone wishing to become involved can contact Barb Van Halderen, 250-249-5151 or visit the website skyfest2012.com to sign up.