The Courier

80-year-old Gord Price will take to the skies at the Cold Lake Air Show this summer – Submitted Photo 

“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I can remember.”

Gord Price has spent the better part of 60 years in the sky, be it with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), as an airline pilot, or performing in air shows. The 80-year-old is once again taking to the skies this summer in his Yakovlev YAK -50 for what he’s calling “The Last Tour” before he retires, and one-stop included on the schedule is the Cold Lake Air Show on July 16th and 17th.

“Frankly it means everything to me (to be able to come back and perform in Cold Lake,” explains Price. “I’ve pretty well hit every base that I’ve ever been on, with the exception of Chatham (Ontario). I’ve done all the others, including 4 Wing.”

“I have fond memories of Cold Lake, I learned to fly a fantastic airplane there. That was the days when I could handle the cold, I’m not sure I can handle it now,” he adds with a chuckle.

Price stands beside a CF-104 Starfighter during his time with 422 Squadron in Europe – Supplied Photo

Price’s time in the RCAF began in November of 1960, taking training at RCAF Station Centralia and eventually earning his wings at CFB Portage la Prairie. After a stop at CFB Cold Lake, he ended up at CFB Baden–Soellingen in 1964, flying a CF-104 Starfighter in a Nuclear Strike Pilot role with 422 Fighter Squadron.

“I had joined the air force to try and stay in the air force. I was given a short service, five-year commission. I had two children and a wife and after a while, I asked ‘Will I get a permanent commission or not?’ Well, I had responsibilities and the prospect of no job coming at me, so I applied with some airlines and was hired.”

Price spent the next 36 years as a Captain with Air Canada, flying everything from a DC-9 to a Boeing 747. It was in the role of an airline pilot that he first came upon the idea of performing at air shows in smaller, aerobatic aircraft.

“I was flying a DC-8 going out to Winnipeg in 1974, and the Captain pulled out a picture of an airplane he was building. It was a Steen Skybolt. I asked if I could borrow the picture, and I took it home and showed my wife and told her ‘Here’s the airplane I’m going to build.’ ”

He then began building and performing in both air shows as well as the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Aerobatic Championships representing Canada in 1980, 1982, and 1988. By the fall of 1988, Price says the desire for a different life saw him sell his aircraft and stop performing.

By 2002, Price had retired as an airline pilot. It wasn’t long after that the flying bug bit him once more.

“After I was done flying 747s, I think I was a little depressed. I didn’t fly for about seven years. I decided I need to get back into it. I thought at the time that it would be healthy.”

He set his sights on acquiring an aircraft he was familiar with.

“I ended up buying the Yak-50. The reason why was the Russians had let me fly a Yak-50 in 1982 in Austria and I never forgot the airplane. It is fantastic. When I saw a prototype, which had serial number 01 for sale in Salt Lake City in Utah, I bought it.”

“The airfoil on the Yak-50 is really something for going around a corner. It has lots of power, vertical performance, and an air show presence it has. You can put on a pretty good show in a tight area with this aircraft.”

When he’s not up in the air, Price and his family operate The Dam Pub in Meaford, Ontario, which prides itself on its selection of Whiskeys. His Yak-50 features the name of the bar emblazoned underneath the cockpit as a sponsor. As for this being the very last tour, Price says just like his life, that may be up in the air too.

“I have mixed emotions. I keep saying this is it, but maybe I’m trying to believe myself. I just know I don’t want to fly the 10 legs out west anymore.”

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