TORONTO, August 31, 2023 – When the RCAF Snowbirds do their annual Canadian International Air Show, September 2, 3, and 4 on the CNE waterfront, 81-year-old Gord Price will be among the dazzling daredevils.
Honorary CF Snowbird
But after more than 60 years in the cockpit, 2023 marks “The Last Tour” for this affable father of two, recently made an honorary Snowbird.
“I think it’s fitting my last show is in Toronto. It’s my favourite air show to fly,” he says from his Meaford home.
This all comes with some mixed emotions.
“Well, it’s sort of confusing, actually. I’m about to turn 82. A lot of things aren’t as simple as they used to be,” he explains. “The flying is not a problem, it’s everything else associated with it. I worry a lot about the airplane, (and the logistical challenges).”
One again, Price will be entertaining fans in his dynamic Russian-built, 435-horsepower YAK-50 airplane – joining the other Snowbirds in doing loops, rolls, tumbling, somersaults, spins, etc.
“It’s a little bigger airplane,” he says of his eye-catching craft. “It’s a little more graceful, and you can see it better.”
According to the Galt native, “there was never any doubt in my mind” what career he’d wind up in.
“I’ve always been interested in airplanes. As a kid I used to build a lot of models,” he says.
He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1960, first learning to do aerobatics, before serving two years as a nuclear strike pilot at CFB Baden-Soellingen (flying a CF-104 Starfighter). From the military, he moved to Air Canada and spent 36 years flying all varieties of commercial aircraft, right up to the Boeing 747.
However, his love for light aircraft remained. And in 1975, he built his own 200-horsepower Steen Skybolt — the beginning of a decade of building, designing, and modifying planes for air shows and competitions.’
Then came a 20-year sabbatical from flying, as his family lived for extensive periods in Bermuda, New York, and Scotland.
But Price was bitten by the bug again in 2011, after learning that a YAK-50 prototype was up for sale in Salt Lake City. Back in 1982, the Russians had let him fly the YAK-50, while stationed in Austria.
“As soon as I saw (the prototype) was for sale and we were back in Canada, (I bought it),” he relates.
“It’s bigger. It lended itself to get back into aerobatic flying.”
He’s had to remain in top-notch shape to fly. But now, coming on 82, he says “it’s time” to retire on his own terms, rather than on doctor’s orders.
The Dam Pub connection in Meaford
His YAK-50 is sponsored by the Price family’s The Dam Pub, in Meaford, known for its’ selection of more than 1,000 Whiskies, along with its’ Scottish Gastropub fare, and cosy charm. Having attracted whisky lovers “from all over the world”, The Dam is run by his daughter Stephanie, a Certified Single Malt Ambassador.
It originally opened in nearby Thornbury in 2005. But when Covid hit, they opted to purchase this smaller location in the historic Meaford downtown.
“We saw it as an opportunity. So we bought this building right across from the Meaford Arts & Cultural Centre,” he adds. “It’s all Stephanie’s design. She wanted to have a pub like the ones in Edinburgh”
“It was quite a big job building that bar. We even had to put in a dumb waiter”.
Air Show Details
Date: September 2nd – 4th, 2023
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. daily
Place: 1095 Lake Shore Blvd West, Toronto
(South Side of Lakeshore Blvd. West across from the Liberty Grand. East of British Columbia Blvd)
by Mike Beggs
photography by Jean-Pierre Bonin