Mission's Roy Hafeli will be announcing at this year's Reno Air Races.

Mission's Roy Hafeli will be announcing at this year's Reno Air Races.

Mission aviation announcer called up to the big leagues

Roy Hafeli will call the Reno Air Races in September.

  • Sep. 5, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Local aviation announcer Roy Hafeli has been called up to the big show — the legendary Reno Air Races.

“Abbotsford is big, but this is one of the top three aviation events in the United States,” said Hafeli.

Billed as “the world’s fastest motor sport,” the air races will be a high-octane experience for the longtime Mission resident who has unwavering childlike curiosity for airplanes.

His infatuation began after a young Hafeli, bored out of his mind during a shopping trip with his mom at Park Royal mall, glimpsed a framed photo of a yellow Harvard with a bright red stripe.

He inquired about the plane with the lady behind the counter at the fish store, Mary. That conversation sparked a friendship that lasted over 30 years.

The Harvard belonged to Mary’s husband Tony, a former RAF pilot. Tony would later take Hafeli for rides in the plane, eventually allowing the wide-eyed teenager to try his hand at aerobatic maneuvers.

Hafeli got his pilot’s licence around the same age most teenagers are just learning how to drive a car, 17.

At the same time, another obsession was brewing.

“I was always interested in listening to shortwave stations at night — when I was supposed to be sleeping,” grinned Hafeli, as he reminisced about picking up radio stations from as far away as Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

After high school Hafeli took a job as a dockhand for a float plane outfit in New Westminster. He later painted planes for Conair in Abbotsford until he was laid off.

That pink slip changed the trajectory of his life.

Hafeli began taking evening broadcasting courses at BCIT, eventually moving into the full-time program. While still in school, Hafeli became the resident evening DJ at CFVR Radio in Abbotsford — a job he retained for 14 years beginning in mid-’80s.

Hafeli would go on to announce other airshows around the province, before landing his big break in 1997, when he was called to the announcer’s booth in Abbotsford for one of the world’s premier aviation events.

It was a dream come true for Hafeli, who would have to drag his parents out to the Abbotsford Airshow from their home in east Vancouver.

“Going to the Abbotsford Airshow when I was a kid was like Christmas, New Year’s and your birthday rolled into one,” said Hafeli.

Now, 16 years later, Hafeli is still a fixture in the announcing tower every August. He and partner Ken Hildebrandt, who has a background in theatre, are the only two-man announcing team in North America for air shows, figures Hafeli.

“It works because it’s like listening to a two-person, morning radio show — instead of listening to one person drone on all day,” he explains.

One of only three aviation broadcasters in the country, Hafeli spends the fair-weather months traveling from one air show to the next.

With the Reno Air Races now in his sights, Hafeli is more giddy than normal. The iconic event, which runs from Sept. 11-15, boasts modified Warbirds whizzing by at speeds in excess of 400 mph.

“It’s airplane heaven. How I got Reno I don’t know,” said Hafeli.

He will be calling the show with Danny Clisham, the self-proclaimed “announcer with more awards and honours than any other announcer in the history of air shows.”

As Hafeli prepares to take his truck and trailer down south — his wife, Laurel, and border collie, Hollywood, will be his co-pilots —he does so with a heavy heart. Mary, the woman from the west Vancouver fish store, died a few weeks ago.

“The cool thing was, when Mary closed the store she gave me the photo,” recalled Hafeli.

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read