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.

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

Strong winds, rain knock out power to thousands in Lower Mainland

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in region and Sunshine Coast

Downtown Mission: Ready to revitalize

With the bidding process underway, construction could start by mid-March

Guilty plea issued in case where man, 86, was assaulted and robbed

Hughie Stump pleads guilty to break-and-enter in relation to Abbotsford incident

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Fraser Health asking taxpayers for millions more in health care capital funding

Health authority wants Fraser Valley taxpayers to triple annual contribution to $5.75 million


Mission Chamber announces Business Excellence Awards winners

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants blanked by Portland Winterhawks

Saturday’s 2-0 setback marks first regulation loss for G-Men in 10 games

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

VIDEO: Remember the Voyageurs at Fort Langley

Two-day historical festival underway

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read