Snowbirds mark 2 years since crash that claimed Capt. Jenn Casey’s life in Kamloops

Web News • 18 May 2022

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Snowbirds, Capt Logan Reid prepped for takeoff

From CFB Esquimalt Lookout Navy News/Lookout Production 🔗 link to source story

By Peter Mallett, Staff Writer, Lookout Production on April 13, 2022

Snowbird pilot Capt Logan Reid.

A Victoria-born pilot will be at the controls of one of nine CT-114 Tutor jets, when the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic display squadron takes to the skies over Canadian cities this summer.

Tucked in the cockpit of Snowbird 8 will be Capt Logan Reid, donning the familiar red pilot flight suit.

However, before he and his fellow pilots can delight air show fans across Canada with their signature manoeuvres, which include the Canada Burst, formation heart, and solo head-on crosses, they must first complete training camp. From April 19 to May 11 the 24 member show team will relocate from 15 Wing Moose Jaw to CFB Comox. 19 Wing has been the site of the Snowbirds’ annual spring training camp since the mid-1970s.

“Getting to Comox is an exciting time for us because the flying tempo steps up considerably and it’s a significant milestone as we get our manoeuvres put together,” says Capt Reid. “It’s also the first time you get the feeling of really taking up the mantle for the new pilots and technicians who have joined the team.”

After spending his Easter weekend with wife Nicole and their four-year-old son Mackenzie in Moose Jaw, Capt Reid and his teammates will hop in their jets and fly west.

Under normal circumstances, he and the team would head to Comox to refine their routine for airshows in May. But some exceptional issues including bad weather, COVID-19 restrictions on personnel, and maintenance factors have put them behind schedule. Their first airshow will be June 18 and 19 over Borden, ON. After that, they will zigzag across the country performing into September before crossing the border for a few shows in California.

During training, they plan to make two flights a day, six days a week with their flight paths very close to the Courtenay-Comox region.

The practice is all for a good reason, says Capt Reid. When performing in formation the pilots have no room for error. They can reach speeds of up to 600 km/h with a separation of just 1.8 metres, the height of an average man.

Feeling the rumble

Logan, 33, grew up in Brentwood Bay. He first caught the aviation bug after attending numerous air shows with his father in Comox and Abbotsford, B.C.

“For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a fast jet pilot,” he says. “At the air shows, I distinctly remember feeling the rumble of the fighter jets as they screamed by and then being wowed by the awesomeness of seeing the Snowbirds in the sky.”

He also likes older planes that predate the Cold-War era flying the air show circuit. He calls them “inspiration machines” while noting the advances in aviation technology of the last century are truly “mind boggling.”

His interest in aviation led him to join Royal Canadian Air Cadets 676 Kittyhawk Squadron based at Victoria International Airport.

He graduated from the University of Victoria in 2008 with a Diploma in Business Administration – Aviation. During this time, he also obtained his private pilot license through the Victoria Flying Club. Capt Reid then attended the Royal Military College of Canada and earned his Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering in 2012. He was posted to Moose Jaw to earn his pilot wings where he flew the CT-156 Harvard II and the CT-155 Hawk. He continued to follow his dream and applied to join the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and was selected in 2018.

Tight Bond

His role in the team’s No. 8 plane, positioned two aircraft away from the lead plane’s right wing, is a spot he has maintained since joining the team.

His other role with the team is the Lead Solo. This occurs when the planes fly away in groups of two and then proceed head-on against each other.

“It’s a fast-paced game of chicken with closing speeds of 1,100 kilometres an hour, missing each other by 30 feet,” he says. “My job as the lead is to command the head on crosses and make sure they are staged appropriately at show centre.”

To perform at this level requires skill, professionalism, and teamwork and its paramount each individual brings that attitude to work every day, says Capt Reid. It’s also these same requirements that make the Snowbirds such a close-knit family.

“We put our lives in each other’s hands every mission, so the bond is tight and the trust runs deep.”

Being a Snowbird pilot is a “collection of surreal” experiences, he explains. “It’s one that involves being so finely in tune with your jet that it makes the wings feel like an extension of your body and seeing the world rotate around your formation. It’s almost indescribable. Every time I put on the red suit I still get a little giddy.”

This will be Capt Reid’s final year with the Snowbirds team, as most pilots serve in the demonstration squadron for a maximum of five years.

“I have had no greater honour of flying for this team. It’s hard to imagine a better job and there have been so many special moments.”

When the airshow season wraps up this October, Capt Reid hopes to begin Fighter Lead In Training. The goal is to eventually pilot Canada’s CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft.

To learn more on the Snowbird’s 2022 schedule go to  http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/en/snowbirds/schedule.page

Snowbirds

Snowbirds set to arrive in the Comox Valley

From Comox Valley Record 🔗 link to source story • thanks to CW

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are set to be back in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are set to be back in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak

Residents can expect to see and hear the iconic Tutor jets as the pilots in the sky

Black Press Submitted • April 14, 2022

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be at 19 Wing Comox this year for their annual spring training between April 19 and May 10.

Residents can expect to see and hear the iconic Tutor jets as the pilots of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron practice their formations and aerobatics in the vicinity of Comox Valley and over the Georgia Strait.

This year will be different than prior training sessions. Exceptional issues this past winter, including bad weather, and COVID-19 restrictions on personnel, have put them behind schedule. Therefore, the squadron will be conducting exercises at an earlier phase in their training and pilots may not be flying some of the more complicated maneuvers.

Residents are asked to enjoy the Snowbirds practice from their homes or to follow them online through social media.

Air Force Beach will have limited access for non-pass holders for the weekends of April 23 to 24, April 30 to May 1 and May 7 to 8. Access will be controlled by members of 19 Wing Comox. All visitors on DND property are asked to maintain physical distancing; in the event that distancing cannot be maintained, 19 Wing Comox requests masks be worn for everyone’s safety.

– 19 Wing Comox

2022 Canadian Forces Snowbirds schedule

DateLocation
June 
18 – 19Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ontario
25 – 26Brantford, Ontario
29Dieppe-Moncton-Riverview, New Brunswick
July 
1Ottawa, Ontario**
16 – 17Cold Lake, Alberta
20Terrace, British Columbia
23 – 24Calgary-Springbank, Alberta
30 – 31Fort St. John, British Columbia
August 
3Penticton, British Columbia
5 ‑ 7Abbotsford, British Columbia
13 ‑ 14Edmonton-Villeneuve, Alberta
27 ‑ 28Debert, Nova Scotia
September 
3 ‑ 5Toronto, Ontario
9 ‑ 11London, Ontario
14Tillsonburg, Ontario
17 ‑ 18Gatineau, Quebec
24 ‑ 25Mirabel, Quebec
October 
1 ‑ 2Huntington Beach, California, USA
8 ‑ 9San Francisco, California, USA
15 ‑ 16Santa Maria, California, USA

 ** Denotes a non-aerobatic display

Have you ever wondered what our pilots see during our shows?👀 This video gives you a simultaneous view of the cockpit and the ground during one of our 2021 air show!

Thank you AirshowAddict

Operation INSPIRATION: Demonstration Flights over the Lower Mainland (July 15-18)

July 12, 2021 · YVR

On July 15-18, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the CF-18 Demonstration team will perform inspirational flights over the Lower Mainland. The activities will include flybys and a practice show. For further information on Operation INSPIRATION, please view the news release from the Department of National Defence.

16 July 2021 starting at 3:00 pm flight path

1/2
Here’s our approximate plan for today’s flight over the Greater #Vancouver Area to show our support to Healthcare workers for their work in the last year.😁 Take Off YVR: 3:00pm

BC Children’s Hospital
UBC Hospital
Stanley Park
St. Paul’s Hospital
Vancouver General Hospital

Originally tweeted by CF Snowbirds (@CFSnowbirds) on 16 July 2021.

2/2
Lions Gate Hospital
Burnaby Hospital
Sunny Hill Health Center
Ridge Meadows Hospital
Royal Columbian Hospital
Surrey Memorial Hospital
Langley Memorial Hospital
White Rock Pier
Peace Arch Hospital
Delta Hospital
Back to YVR airport

The flyby will be done at 1000 feet. 😁

#opinspiration

Originally tweeted by CF Snowbirds (@CFSnowbirds) on 16 July 2021.

Royal Canadian Mint honours Snowbirds’ 50th year with silver coin

Canada’s aerial ambassadors celebrate 50 years. Order today.

The Royal Canadian Mint is honoured to salute the Snowbirds as they celebrate their 50th consecutive airshow season across North America. Formed in 1971 to demonstrate the skill, professionalism and teamwork inherent in the Canadian Forces, the Snowbirds carry on a proud tradition of aerial excellence that dates back to the early years of powered flight in Canada. Their eminent predecessors include aerobatic teams such as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) first official aerobatic team in 1929, the Siskins, followed by many others including the Blue Devils, Sky Lancers, Red Knight, Golden Hawks and Golden Centennaires to name a few. In the post war years prior to unification in 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also formed several aerobatic teams including the Seafire Exhibition Flight and Grey Ghosts.

A beautiful gift for someone who enjoys watching the Snowbirds fly. Order today! mint.ca
Special features:

  • HONOURS AN AVIATION LEGACY! The Snowbirds are world-renowned for the precision and grace of their thrilling aerobatic show set to music. This Snowbirds coin salutes a legacy of aerobatic team prowess that dates back over 90 years in Canada.
  • THE CANADIAN DESIGNED AND BUILT CT-114 TUTOR! Your coin features the diminutive Canadair Tutor jet trainer that has been the mount of the Snowbirds since their inception. In the mid-1960s Canadair built 190 Tutors for service in the RCAF and Canadian Forces.
  • THE BIG DIAMOND FORMATION! Your coin features a bottom view of the Snowbirds’ signature formation, the nine-plane Big Diamond. All of the team’s intricate formations derive from this basic formation.
  • HOLD ONTO YOUR MEMORIES OF 2021! This is Coin #3 of a four-part compilation series that is your essential set for 2021.
  • SPECIAL PACKAGING! Your coin comes in a colourful and informative folder with a removable coin capsule for easy access—just pop the capsule out of the folder for a closer look at your coin.
  • START HERE! Whether you’re new to coin collecting or want to share your hobby with others, this is a great starting point or gift! It is one of our most affordable pure silver coins, and its design will serve as a long-lasting reminder of key moments in 2021.
  • AN AFFORDABLE ADDITION! You get ¼ oz. of 99.99% pure silver – some of the purest silver in the world – for the low cost of $24.95 per coin.
  • SUBSCRIBE TO THE SERIES! Want to guarantee a complete set of 2021 Moments to Hold coins? Subscribe to the series! Each subscription reserves all four coins – this one, plus three other issues in 2021 – without having to time your purchases to coincide with each quarterly release. You also get the convenience of paying as each coin is shipped, and your satisfaction is guaranteed.
  • NO GST/HST

Design:
Your coin’s reverse was designed by Canadian graphic artist Dave O’Malley and features the unique “speedbird” design that has graced the bottom of the Snowbird Tutors since a new paint scheme was introduced in 1974. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt with “ELIZABETH II”, “D·G·REGINA” and “5 DOLLARS” engraved along the outer edge. Historical text and production liaison were provided by former Snowbird commanding officer and team leader Dan Dempsey.

Did you know?

  • The genesis of the Snowbirds took place in early 1971 when the Base Commander of CFB Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Colonel O.B. Philp, decided to form a seven-plane airshow team to carry on the legacy of the Golden Centennaires which he had commanded in 1967 during Canada’s Centennial Year. Initially flown by instructors at 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, the team expanded to nine aircraft in 1972 and soon competitive tryouts were held for pilot volunteers from across Canada, such was the popularity of the new team.
  • The Snowbirds were granted permanent status as a new squadron in the Canadian Forces on April 1, 1978 when they officially became known as 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron.
  • Snowbirds pilots are all volunteers, as are the majority of the squadron’s technicians and support staff. Competitive flying tryouts are carried out each year to select new team pilots, with half of the team normally changing each year. Over the years, squadron members have represented every province in Canada and all of Canada’s services – the RCAF, RCN, Canadian Army and the Reserves.
  • Over 150 million spectators across North America have watched a live performance by the Snowbirds over the last 50 years in some 2,700 official airshows at 380 different towns and cities. Hundreds more flypasts have been flown at every major outdoor event in Canada – from Canada Day on Parliament Hill to the Olympics to the Grey Cup.
  • During their typical six-month airshow season, Snowbirds team members will attend three to four public relations events per week, signing thousands of autographs over the course of the season. The team has a long-established tradition of never leaving an autograph session until every person has received a signed brochure. As role models for the youth of Canada, they have proven particularly adept at motivating and inspiring children through school and hospital visits, encouraging them to stay in school, avoid drugs and pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. The Snowbirds are official ambassadors for the C.H.I.L.D. Foundation (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders), flying a special show for them every summer.

Cape Breton Snowbirds pilot rejoins flock

From Saltwire & Cape Breton Post – link to source story

Christopher Connors · June 13, 2021

Capt. Steve MacDonald, who is from New Waterford, is living out his boyhood dream as a member of the snowbirds, Canada’s elite Snowbirds aerobatics team. Contributed/Canadian Forces
Capt. Steve MacDonald, who is from New Waterford, is living out his boyhood dream as a member of the snowbirds, Canada’s elite Snowbirds aerobatics team. Contributed/Canadian Forces – Saltwire network

SYDNEY, N.S. — Ever since Capt. Steve MacDonald was four years old, he knew he wanted to be a member of Canada’s iconic Snowbirds aerobatics team.

And now, after a brief hiatus flying commercial airplanes, the New Waterford native is back in the cockpit of a CT-114 Tutor jet helping the squadron prepare to wow audiences across the continent this summer.

“Becoming a Snowbird was always a lifelong goal to me,” said MacDonald, who will turn 45 later this month. “I enjoyed it immensely the first time and I missed it since I left.”

MacDonald credits his father, Daryl MacDonald, with helping him fall in love with flying. They would travel every year to the Shearwater International Airshow where he would stand at the fence line to collect autographs from the elite flight demonstration pilots as they walked off the tarmac.

Capt. Steve MacDonald, centre, with parents Daryl and Alice MacDonald. Contributed - Saltwire network
Capt. Steve MacDonald, centre, with parents Daryl and Alice MacDonald. Contributed – Saltwire network


“I realized they were humans and not superheroes, which they seemed to be when I was a kid.” “I would go to that airshow every year religiously. I was just hooked,” he said, adding that the Snowbirds encouraged him to make his dream a reality.

MacDonald said he’s honoured to be able to do the same now.

GIVING BACK

“That is our motto on the Snowbirds is to demonstrate the professionalism, skill and teamwork of the Canadian Forces in general — we represent all three, the army, navy and air force — we’re a recruiting platform. I was an inspired kid and I just absolutely love the opportunity to be able to give that back.”

Daryl MacDonald said he recalls the moment he knew his son was destined to join the air force. 

Capt. Steve MacDonald is seen in the cockpit of a CP-140 Aurora at the Shearwater International Airshow when he was a child. He later joined the air force and flew the same model of plane on missions around the globe. Contributed  - Saltwire network
Capt. Steve MacDonald is seen in the cockpit of a CP-140 Aurora at the Shearwater International Airshow when he was a child. He later joined the air force and flew the same model of plane on missions around the globe. Contributed – Saltwire network

“I have a picture of him with the headset on sitting in the pilot’s seat, hands on the control. The smile on his face — I just knew it — he was on his way. That was his trail.” “I have a picture to prove it,” he said. “One of our trips up to Shearwater, they had a lot of static displays there, planes that you can go on and get a tour of, and he got into the Aurora and they took him right up into the cockpit.

When he was 12, Steve MacDonald joined the 587 Whitney Pier Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron where he earned his glider licence and then private pilot’s licence.

His mother, Alice MacDonald, said she clearly remembers the first time she flew with her son.

“I was so nervous, but I thought, ‘I have to do this to show him that I believe in what he was doing.’ I wanted him to have a normal career, like a teacher or an engineer, but he said, ‘Mom, if I could fly, I’d feel like I was on vacation every day of my life,’” she said, noting that he got his pilot’s licence before he obtained his driver’s licence.

“So, I went on that flight with him, and when I could hear him talk to the air traffic controller, that’s when I realized this boy knows what’s he’d doing,” she added.

“And he was so respectful of me and his family because every time he would bank, he would say, ‘I’m going to bank to the right, or bank to the left,’ and he said, ‘We’re going to be hitting some turbulence, but I can’t control that.’ So, it was after that flight that I knew he had to fly, and I had to let go of my nervousness for me as his mother.”

ALWAYS A SNOWBIRD

After receiving his Canadian Forces wings in 2002, Steve MacDonald was posted to Greenwood, N.S., where he flew the CP-140 Aurora, a long-range patrol aircraft used for various missions over land and water.

In 2012, he was selected to join the Snowbirds and spent 2013 and 2014 with the team before he was posted back to the 404 Squadron and once again instructed on the Aurora. In 2015, he retired from the Canadian Forces to become an airline pilot for WestJet, and then Air Canada, while also serving as a reservist with 413 Search and Rescue squadron.

However, MacDonald said when the Snowbirds asked him to return, he did not hesitate.

“They say once you’re a Snowbird, you’re always a Snowbird,” he said, “and they tend to migrate back if they have the opportunity to.”

Chris Connors is a multimedia journalist at the Cape Breton Post.

The world of Snowbird 9 the Opposing solo of the Royal Canadian Air Force aerobatic team, The Snowbirds of 431 Squadron.

From DriveTribe – link to source story

By Jason Grunsell | 10 June 2021

I am in awe of military aviation, specifically military aerobatic demonstration teams. Last year it was my privilege to interview Lt. Col Bandet the Commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force aerial demonstration team, the Snowbirds. May is traditionally the time the Snowbirds team migrates from their home base of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island to complete their pre-season training schedule. I had hoped to follow up my Snowbirds article with a visit to CFB Comox to meet the team, sadly Covid restrictions did not permit me to visit the base. I was scratching my head trying to come up with a follow up article without being able to meet the team or take my own pictures. Then it hit me why not ask if it would be possible to interview one of the solo demonstration pilots and get some GoPro footage from inside the cockpit. Thanks to the generosity of Captain Gabriel Ferris the Public relations officer of the Snowbirds I was able to interview Snowbird 9 the Opposing Solo and to get a few minutes of in cockpit footage.

Snowbird 9 over CFB Comox during training.

During my initial contact with Captain Ferris he asked me what pilot I would like to interview. My first thought was to look for a pilot native to British Columbia, of which there were several candidates but then it occurred to me to take a look at the two solo pilots on the team. When I noticed that Snowbird 9 had participated in an exchange tour of duty with the US Navy that culminated in his qualifying to fly off a US aircraft carrier I knew I had found my man. I am fascinated by naval aviation. One of my favorite documentaries is called Carrier which is a 2005 PBS documentary series that over the course of ten episodes followed the six month deployment of the US nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. Interestingly one of the aviators that was featured in the documentary was Commander Dave Fravour the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron VF-41 Black Aces who has since come to prominence as a witness to the famous TikTok UFO video on a training run over the pacific.

In a stroke of serendipity, Snowbird 9 has a rather unique call sign. For those unfamiliar with the term a call sign is given to a military pilot and is a specialized form of nickname that is used as a substitute for an aviator’s given name. Call signs are bestowed by fellow aviators at the end of training usually relating to some event or behavior exhibited by the aviator. So you don’t get to chose your call sign and be a real cool dude like Maverick and Iceman from Top Gun fame. I only found out Snowbird 9’s call sign when I came across a YouTube video of him giving the USAF F-35A 2019 season demo pilot, Major Andrew ‘Dojo’ Olson, a flight with the Snowbirds. Snowbird 9 is Major Taylor Evans call sign ‘McLovin’. For those familiar with the 2007 coming of age teen comedy movie Superbad the name “McLovin” is synonymous with the character of Fogell who gets a fake Hawaiian driving license with name ‘McLovin’ in order to purchase alcohol for a house party. Indicative off my juvenile sense of humor I found this movie hilarious. It was icing on my cake that the solo pilot I chose to interview has this particular call sign, clearly a good omen that this article was meant to be.

View gallery image

So what is the story behind Major Evans call sign? Well when Major Evans went to fighter pilot training he was was of the youngest trainees in the class and as the Major recalls he looked even younger when he had a full head of hair. He looked so young that he was constantly being asked to show his identification when he and his squadron went out to the bar. People could not believe he was flying a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet let alone being the age to legally consume alcohol. During the review boards one of his fellow pilots yelled out ‘McLovin’ and everyone thought that was an appropriate call sign for Major Evans. During his exchange tour with the US Navy, Major Evans had the distinction of meeting up with a US naval aviator who also bore the ‘McLovin’ call sign. These days only an older generation recognize the call sign from the movie, while a younger audience think it has something to do with McDonalds.

Prior to becoming a Snowbird Major Evans had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with the United States Navy. Major Evans had no idea if he would be accepted into the program or where he might go on exchange if his application was successful only that it would be outside of Canada. As luck would have it Major Evans was offered an exchange posting with the US Navy at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach Virginia as an instructor with VFA 106 Gladiators flying the legacy F-18A/B/C/D Hornet and the F-18E/F Super Hornet. The legacy F-18B model flown by the US Navy is a two seat aircraft and is used to train new pilots. It is very similar to the CF-18B model flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force. Major Evans had to learn to fly a whole new model with the F-18E Super Hornet (which is a single seat fighter aircraft), and the F-18F is a two seat version of the Super Hornet. While Flying F-18F Major Evans would instruct trainee Weapons System Officers (WSO). A by product of being dual qualified meant that Major Evans would fly a training mission in the morning in a brand new F-18E Super Hornet which still had that new car smell with only twenty hours of flight time on the airframe and then switch around in the afternoon to flying a thirty year legacy F-18B or F-18D model that needed some coaxing to fly. The highlight of his exchange came near the end of his tour when Major Evans was certified to land and take off from a nuclear aircraft carrier. The month and a half training was primarily carried out in simulators before commencing touch and go landings at an auxiliary airfield using the optical landing system (nicknamed the meatball or simply the ball) to give glide path information to pilots in the terminal phase of landing on an aircraft carrier. Major Evans qualified with ten daytime traps on the carrier, and four night time landings, these being the most challenging. Major Evans said the most exhilarating sensation was the three second catapult launch off the deck of the aircraft carrier. He especially remembers launching off the deck of the carrier for the first time all alone in a F-18C Hornet, “it was an incredible experience. The takeoff is wild, you can’t comprehend how fast you’re able to fly.” Upon completion of his three year tour Major Evans moved back to Canada and then in 2018 he joined the Snowbirds as the Opposing Solo. A position he once again occupies.

In addition to his call sign, Major Evans also holds a unique place within the history of the Snowbirds. Snowbird pilots usually undertake a two year tour of duty with the team before transferring to other duties. Major Evans joined the team in 2018 and was selected to fly as the Opposing Solo. The Opposing Solo will then transition to Lead Solo (Snowbird 8) in the following year which Major Evans did before leaving the team at the end of the 2019 season. The Snowbirds experienced a turbulent 2020 with the pandemic and the tragic loss of Public Affair Officer Captain Jennifer Casey in an accident in Kamloops. As a result of this several members of the Snowbirds left the team which necessitated bringing back several previous Snowbirds to fill in the gaps. Major Evans was one of those ex Snowbirds who was brought back into the team, ironically he was asked to fill the position of Opposing Solo. The Snowbird pilot who was the Opposing Solo when Major Evans was the Lead Solo is now the Lead Solo which is certainly a first time experience for the Snowbirds.

It is fascinating to glean insights into the world of military aerobatic flying. The concentration required to stay in formation often precludes the pilots from viewing some of the spectacular scenery or events they are flying over during the display. Major Evans recalled a particular moment where this happened while flying with two other military aerobatic teams, the USAF Thunderbirds and the US Navy Blue Angels. Having all three display teams flying together is a rare event, and a heavily choreographed one. Major Evans recalled only seeing the Thunderbirds from his side of the formation for a few seconds before the teams re-joined and then he was on the wrong side of the formation. “I knew the other teams were out there, but I couldn’t see them.” When I spoke to members of the Royal Air Force aerobatic team, the Red Arrows, about their historic flight down the Hudson River in formation with the Thunderbirds, two F-35 Lightnings and a pair F-22 Raptors they could only recall brief moments viewing the iconic skyline of New York. Somewhat ironic that military display teams are given permission to fly over unique venues and they are not always be able to take in the splendor of their surroundings during the display. Teams get to enjoy the scenery when they are transiting to their next show venue.

The two solo performers on the Snowbirds team fly some of the more dynamic aspects of the display. A crowd favourite is the head on pass where two aircraft appear to be on course to collide before veering away at the last moment. This is an optical illusion intended to make the audience gasp when in fact the pilots aim for the planes to be approximately thirty three feet away from one another during the pass. The most challenging/dangerous area of the solo demonstration is applying low level aerobatics where the hard deck is three hundred feet above the ground. The solos are forbidden from descending below this height during the display. The danger in low altitude aerobatics is the limited time to safely avoid an accident such as flying into the ground. Even more challenging is flying upside down and staying three hundred feet above the ground. Major Evans is rather fond of the mirror roll maneuver, which can be seen when two Snowbirds fly cockpit to cockpit, with one aircraft flying horizontal to the ground and the other aircraft flies upside down above the horizontal aircraft. Major Evans is looking straight up into the cockpit of the the Lead Solo Snowbird 8. The two Snowbirds then perform a barrel roll as both aircraft rotate through three hundred and sixty degrees. The trick as Major Evans puts it is to match the roll rates of the other pilot so the aircraft appear to be a match rather than being out of sync with one another. Training, training and more training enable the Snowbird pilots to perform these dangerous maneuvers. The solos begin training at a higher altitude and gradually working their way down to the three hundred foot hard deck. It is crucial both pilots are very consistent in how they fly the maneuver.

When flying in the Big Diamond formation. which comprises all nine Snowbird aircraft Major Evans is on the far left of the formation. His primary reference point is Snowbird 1 or the ‘Boss’ who is at the front of the Big Diamond. The ‘Boss’ flies out in front of every formation. Major Evans is constantly watching the Boss’ for movements in his wings, and control surfaces , while at the same time using his peripheral vision to scan for Snowbird 3. in addition to using reference points on each other’s aircraft to remain in formation the eight Snowbird pilots are also listening to the cadence of Snowbird 1, Major Jean-Francois Dupont, as he leads the team through the various aerobatic maneuvers. Aerobatic displays are a set of carefully choreographed maneuvers that demand specific timing, spatial awareness, hand eye coordination, and precise flying behavior. This is brilliantly demonstrated by this amazing in cockpit footage (provided by Captain Ferris) of Major Evans as he practices with the Snowbirds in formation above CFB Comox. What an absolute privilege to be given this footage and to be able share it with my readers.

Major Evans and the rest of the Snowbirds are looking forward to a full display season here in Canada and the United States in 2021. Personally I cannot wait until July 18 when the Snowbirds will be doing a flyover over my home town of Vancouver. I will be paying particular attention to Snowbird 9. I want to thank Major Taylor ‘Mclovin’ Evans for taking the time to talk to me and to Captain Ferris for making this interview possible and for providing me and my readers with the out of this world cockpit footage of Major Evans and the team practicing over CFB Comox. It was a thrill and honor to share the cockpit with McLovin himself. The Snowbirds truly are Warriors of the Air (Hatiten Ronteriios).