Taking flight in a Snowbird

Mission editor Jason Roessle was offered the opportunity to fly with the Snowbirds Thursday

The Snowbirds perform daily Aug. 10-12 at the Abbotsford International Airshow at 4:30 p.m.

The Snowbirds perform daily Aug. 10-12 at the Abbotsford International Airshow at 4:30 p.m.

Crisp, early morning air greeted me Thursday morning at Abbotsford International Airport; a bit of low-hanging fog spread a vibrant orange glow across the neatly lined up squadron of RCAF Snowbird planes.

Soon, I would be in one, jetting across the skies with some of the highest trained and  amazingly talented pilots in the Canadian Forces.

All the required safety checks, lessons on how to exit the aircraft in an emergency, and being fitted with a flight suit, helmet and gloves were all mundane, but terribly exciting for this long-time aviation enthusiast.

And I hadn’t even sat in the plane yet.

The Tutor CT-114 jet weighs about 7,170 pounds and the J-85 engine produces 2,700 pounds of thrust, catapulting it to a top speed of 412 knots (750 km/h).

And yeah, it was fast.

Even take-off was amazing. The power up, the signal from the tower and the lead, rocketing down the runway, and then we’re aloft.

The Fraser Valley suddenly seemed smaller.

Trusting my life to pilot Capt. Brent Handy in the number nine jet, the team followed Snowbird one — flown by Maj. Wayne Mott — east towards Agassiz and left towards Harrison Lake.

Handy is an affable man, and from where I sat, a hell of a smooth pilot. The precision with which they all fly is awe-inspiring, even to a non-aviator.

At one point when we’re making a left formation turn over the lake the ex-CF-18 pilot says, “You’ll have to tell me if it’s nice outside.”

His gaze was firmly fixed on the wing of his team member that was mere metres away, and he made all his speed and stick inputs based on the other Snowbird’s position.

And in the interest of full disclosure, no, I did not lose my lunch, but my stomach was definitely annoyed.

When I’m given the opportunity to fly, I seize on it immediately, but a bit of trepidation overcomes me, and I don’t launch into a hard split-S I always imagined I would do if given the chance to try.

In looking below and to the left at one point on the return voyage home, I see some of my media cohorts flying in other planes don’t have the same motion limiting genetics. One pilot takes his passenger through about three rolls. There might have been four, but I couldn’t watch any longer.

The team headed back towards Abbotsford, and we made a couple circuits over Cultus Lake while waiting for the CF-18 pilot to finish his practice run.

Capt. Handy’s expert touch allowed us to land with nary a bump.

My respect for these pilots and the rest of the members of the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron was immense before this journey, and this first-hand experience has done nothing to reduce that.

I’m forever grateful for the opportunity, and would never imagine turning it down, and I’ll be happy for the rest of my life to continue watching the Airshow.

But from the ground.

 

• For more photos, check out our photo album.

• The Abbotsford International Airshow runs Aug. 10-12, and the Snowbirds fly daily at 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.abbotsfordairshow.com.

Just Posted

water
City begins community engagement for Mission Waterfront Revitalization Master Plan

Wants the community’s input to bring to life the vision outlined in the Official Community Plan

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

web
Father’s Day Parade planned for Mission

Classic vehicles from the 1920s to the 1970s will drive through Mission, Hatzic on June 20

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read