Flying with eight other pilots at up to 400 knots only a metre from each other requires an inordinate amount of talent and nerves.
But it also takes an entire team — including a born and raised Mission man — to get the Snowbird pilots into the air, and across the country for shows.
Thomas Edelson is a captain with the Canadian Forces and serves as the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron’s public affairs (PA) officer handling planning and logistics. Edelson and the rest of the 85-person unit will be across the river this weekend for the 50th anniversary Abbotsford International Airshow.
“[The job] is busier than I thought it would be, and it’s also a pretty unique way to see the country,” said Edelson via phone.
While nine aircraft and pilots perform, the number 10 jet pilot serves as an announcer, and Edelson flies in the 11 Snowbird with the safety officer.
Abbotsford is one of the bigger shows the Snowbirds attend each year, and that event is one of the few that features the Tutor CT-114 aircraft annually.
Edelson, 34, was a journalist and spent a summer working at The Mission Record and Abbotsford News in 2003. Shortly after completing a course on military reporting, he went to Bosnia and was attached to a PA officer who showed him around.
“I saw the other side of the [military] coin. It is a large organization made up of professionals who all have common goals,” he said. “They have a mission-oriented focus, get to go interesting places and do things others can’t.”
He joined the Canadian Forces in 2008.
Edelson had been working in Ottawa as an executive assistant to the 15 Wing Commander, and finishing up his PA training. When his class was asked who wanted to serve as the PA for the Snowbirds — which entails a two-year commitment — he was the only one who did not raise his hand.
“I wanted to go to an army base,” he explained.
But his superiors approached him afterwards and encouraged him to apply.
“I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I get to see Canada and meet Canadians,” he said. Edelson was posted to 431 in 2012.
With a year left in his commitment to the Snowbirds, Edelson said he intends to sign another contract with the military.
“[My career] gets more and more enjoyable,” he said.
• The Abbotsford International Airshow runs Aug. 10-12, and the Snowbirds fly daily at 4:30 p.m. For information and tickets, visit www.abbotsfordairshow.com.