John Bateman is excited about Quesnel’s Skyfest, Aug. 4 – 5. He’s been looking forward to the event for two years and brings extensive experience and abilities to assist with the two-day air show.
Bateman has a long and not-always favourable relationship with aviation.
As a young child in Hayes and Slough in England during the 1950s (both villages close to Heathrow Airport) he remembers one experience where the constant noise of airplane engines drove the residents crazy.
“In Hayes, they were testing the Comet airplane to see why it kept disappearing and crashing – they ran the engines all day and all night for weeks. It drove everyone crazy,” Bateman said.
“And it turned out, among other design flaws, to be the window design,” he said with a wry smile.
Living in Slough meant the constant sound of planes in and out of the airport, another annoyance for locals.
However, Bateman said it wasn’t all bad. He also remembers visiting the airport where new and unique aircraft would be on display.
“Although I wasn’t excited about the plane, I was lucky enough to see a Bristol Type 167 Brabazon,” he said.
That particular plane saw only one prototype constructed before the industry determined it was too large and expensive to be commercially viable.
But his early experiences fostered a connection to aircraft that has grown and expanded to a passion for air shows.
After emigrating to Canada in 1967 (on a Boeing 707), eventually Bateman found himself living and running a business in Abbotsford.
“I was amazed at the great air show in Abbotsford and wondered how they did it,” he said.
“I was encouraged to volunteer to see the show from the inside.”
One of the first things Bateman discovered was the Abbotsford Airport is a great facility.
“ Abbotsford is now an International airport and that is certainly in part because its air show showcased the facility,” he said.
“That’s what Quesnel needs. This airport is also a hidden gem.”
Bateman found his passion. He loves working on air shows.
For the past 30 years, Bateman has volunteered his time with the Abbotsford Air Show including 10 years on the executive.
His enthusiasm hasn’t faltered just because he now lives in Williams Lake.
“I still go down to volunteer at Abbotsford,” he said.
“The excitement of the planes, you meet people from all over the world and it’s a chance for the everyday person to appreciate how exciting the aerobatics are and to experience aviation.”
However, there’s one skill Bateman doesn’t bring to the table – an ability to fly planes.
“It was always too expensive and my family is more important,” he said.
Although Bateman missed the first air show in Quesnel two years ago, when he called Skyfest organizer Barb Van Halderen offering his volunteer services she didn’t hesitate.
“I said you bet,” Van Halderen said with a huge grin.
Bateman brings his considerable organizational skills and wealth of experience to the Quesnel air show and Van Halderen couldn’t be happier.
She knows that much of the success in planning and executing an event like the air show is dependent on volunteers. Whether they can only give an hour or would like to be part of the organizing committee, Van Halderen welcomes anyone with time to give.
“Everyone has something to offer, whether they fly a plane or not. Any air show organization needs the non-flyers as well as flyers to get a good mix of perspectives,” she said.
One of the Abbotsford Air Show elements that has helped grow that event is the trade show, which provides a host of businesses exposure to large crowds and association with a successful venture, which was first organized by Bateman and he would like to develop a similar trade show at Quesnel Skyfest.
He said the possibilities are endless and plans to see if the RCMP recruitment division would like to set up and possibly the Canadian Air Force.
“I’d also like to see the RCMP helicopter, Air 1, on display someday at Quesnel Skyfest,” he said.
Quesnel Skyfest is still looking for volunteers for the Aug. 4 – 5 event. Van Halderen said one lucky volunteer will win an aerobatic airplane ride, so she encourages those interested to contact her 250-249-5151 or visit the website skyfest2012.com to sign up.