Wall of Honour
The Abbotsford International Airshow’s history spans more than six decades. From humble beginnings in 1962 to Canada’s National Airshow, the Airshow owes its legacy and longevity to a countless number of volunteers, staff members, directors and organizations. There are a few, however, who stand apart from the rest. Those whose names continue to be synonymous with Airshow to all who knew them. We honour their contributions here.
W.J. Bud Lloyd
W.J. “Bud” Lloyd was a prominent member of the Abbotsford Rotary Club throughout the 1950s and 1960s. One of his dreams was to move ‘the’ air show to Abbotsford. There had been air shows held at Vancouver in the 1950s, but increasing air traffic and road congestion made them impossible to continue. The Abbotsford Airport was transferred to civilian control in 1958 and an increasing number of commercial enterprises were starting up.
When he heard that a local flying club had been formed, Bud arranged to meet its new President John Spronk. They met in January 1962 and Bud proposed the idea of the air show to John, who immediately agreed. Bud and John successfully proposed the event to the Rotary Club and the Abbotsford Flying Club in March 1962 and the first Abbotsford Airshow took place in August 1962. The event was such a success that it has continued ever since. The Rotary’s Club’s official involvement in organizing the Airshow ended after two years, but Bud’s involvement continued on. Until 1970, Bud was identified in the event program simply as ‘Founder’ of the Airshow.
Bud was also behind the significant changes to the Airshow organization leading up to the 1967 Canadian Centennial Air Show. The Airshow was transformed into a truly international organization and event, involving luminaries of the aviation and aerospace world from across Canada and the United States. These changes attracted generous federal and provincial funding and the 1967 show exceeded all expectations. In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau attended the Airshow, and in early 1970 it was declared ‘Canada’s National Air Show’ by the Government of Canada. Sadly, Bud died shortly before the 1970 show, but his contributions to it were recognized during the opening ceremonies.
Bud Lloyd died in March 1970, aged 61.
John Spronk was born in Holland in 1926 and completed his education at the Hague. He joined the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) as soon as he could after WW2 ended. He was commissioned as an officer in 1949, flying Tiger Moths, Harvards, Spitfires, and the Gloster Meteor jet. In 1957 John resigned as Captain and Deputy Squadron Leader and immigrated to Canada. There he became a flying instructor in Kelowna and Penticton before taking on the Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) roles at Abbotsford Air Services and Skyways Air Services. John was hired by Pacific Western Airlines in 1969 where he flew the DC-6, Hercules C-130, and B-737, retiring as Captain in 1986.
John was instrumental in creating the Abbotsford Flying Club in November 1961 and was its first President. In January 1962 he was approached by W.J. (Bud) Lloyd of the Rotary Club of Abbotsford with a proposal to run an air show. John knew about air shows from his time in the RNAF and had developed the proper contacts in Canada to organize the flying events and the AFC membership ran the operations. The first year of the event was financed by the Rotary Club, followed by a joint Rotary/AFC effort the following year. John was the primary organizer and air boss for the flying events throughout the 1960s while also performing a ‘How Not To Fly’ routine and other demonstrations in those shows.
In 1966 John led the delegation from Abbotsford that visited Farnborough in preparation for the 1967 Canadian Centennial Air Show – the largest spectator event of the Centennial Year. He served as an Airshow Airshow Director until 1986, but remained involved with the show until his passing in 2014. John always believed that the world had a great need for good pilots and countless former students would agree that he was an excellent instructor.
John Spronk died in June 2014, aged 88.
Ron joined the Abbotsford Airshow as a volunteer in the 1970s as part of his membership in the Abbotsford Flying Club and quickly became ingrained in its organization, formally joining the Airshow’s Board of Directors in 1985. Ron recognized the global changes brought about by the end of the Cold War and the growing importance of international trade. Driven by Ron, Airshow Canada was founded in 1986 as part of Expo ‘86 as an international aerospace trade show, held in conjunction with the Abbotsford Airshow. Ron’s relationship-building helped attract the former Soviet Union Republics and their allies to North America. Ron became the first known North American to sit in a Soviet MiG aircraft in 1986. For more than a decade, Airshow Canada continued as North America’s largest international aerospace trade show.
Following a period of insolvency in 1997, the Abbotsford Airshow Society hired Ron as its General Manager, tasked with restoring the annual event and repaying the Society’s debts. Rejuvenating the event required long-term planning and Ron spent significant time building relationships with top performers, as well as Canadian and American military decision-makers, inspiring confidence to ensure they would return to the Abbotsford event. As a result of Ron’s hard work and leadership, the Airshow resumed in 1999 after just a one year absence and was successful in making its creditors whole. Thirteen years later on its fiftieth anniversary in 2012, the Airshow set a new attendance record.
Ron’s work was often international in scope, but the support of local volunteers and businesses were elements Ron believed were key to the Airshow’s long-term success. Ron was well-known by the hundreds of volunteers involved with the event and knew most of them by name. According to Ron himself, “every year it begins to feel more like a family gathering.”
Ron Price died in August 2021, aged 76.