Flying With The Canadian Forces Snowbirds

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

I have always been a fan of the Canadian Snowbirds. When I was just getting into airshows, their spectacular bursts were unlike anything I had seen before. As I became more familiar with the industry, their large formation rolls where they pull over the top while pointing right at the crowd stuck out as even more unique. And when I eventually earned my pilot’s certificate and spent some time at formation clinics, I found myself astonished by the difficulty of their many different nine-plane formations.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffCanadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

To this day, the Snowbirds are my absolute favorite airshow performance to watch, and one of the very few that I make sure to see at least once a year. One could say I feel a special connection to the team; they feature prominently in my most powerful airshow memories, and just hearing some of the songs they’ve flown to will bring goosebumps to my arms in an instant.

All of this is to say: when Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer Lt. Michèle Tremblay contacted AirshowStuff last month to talk about a media ride, it was more than just a cool opportunity. The catch was that I would have to get from Michigan to the Oregon International Airshow in Hillsboro, Oregon. Thankfully, the logistics were straight forward and less than two weeks later, I was descending past Mt. Hood on my way into Portland.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, also known as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, have been Canada’s national display team since the 1970s. The team is based at CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, and travels across North America each year performing for millions of spectators. Their show season usually begins in May and runs through October. They make a number of visits to the US each year, usually in the spring and fall.

I actually beat the team to Hillsboro, and watched the #10 and #11 jets – the advance party – arrive in the Thursday afternoon sun. We got my quick medical check out of the way before the main group of nine jets arrived. The team’s support hauler, a specially-outfitted semi-trailer truck, was already in place. The truck brings all sorts of equipment for the team, including tools, spare parts, bicycles, a Gator four wheeler, and space for luggage that doesn’t fit into the relatively small CT-114 Tutor aircraft.

I knew that the team had performed on the East Coast (Virginia Beach, VA) the weekend before, and we heard how the Canadian Army driver had driven the truck all the way from there to the team’s home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for a short three hour stop to reload before finishing the cross country journey. I was thankful for my airline ticket just thinking about it.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Snowbirds perform in nine Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft. The Canadian-designed and -built Tutor first flew in 1960 and served as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s primary jet trainer until 2000. Two other Tutors, flown by the team coordinators, travel with the team as spares. Because each aircraft is a two-seater, the team’s technicians fly from show to show along with the pilots. Although the age of the jets is a common point of discussion among airshow fans, the team plans to operate them until at least 2030.

The rest of the team arrived with a nine ship flyby, and after a quick debriefing I was told to report the next morning for ejection seat training(!) and other preparations.

The big day arrived, and the four media riders went straight into learning the complex steps required to strap in, and the even more complex steps required to eject or evacuate on the ground. We grabbed flight suits, and were fitted for helmets, oxygen masks, life preservers, and parachutes by the helpful (and patient) technicians.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

Once we were all set, we went straight to the briefing room to meet the rest of the team and go over the details of the flight. As a dedicated media opportunity, the team was forgoing their typical Friday practice and instead planned a transit flight just for us. We would take off and head north, then turn west and follow the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, OR. After a flyby there, we would turn south and fly along the coast before turning inland and returning to Hillsboro. Upon arriving back at the airfield the team would perform a site survey to familiarize themselves with the showline and then land.

Unfortunately, the FAA rep at the show incorrectly but adamantly stated that aerobatics could not be performed with passengers. The team grumbled but accepted it. The rest of the briefing covered the weather (clear skies, unlimited visibility), air traffic control, divert airports, and other such details that well-prepared pilots pay attention to. I would be flying with Snowbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Pup” Melanson in the First Line Astern position, right behind the “Boss”.

Outside, we were introduced to the aircraft technicians who would be helping us strap in. Cameras were readied, and soon it was time to mount up. All of our prepared gear was waiting for us, and my awesome (and again, patient) tech Cpl. Brandon Harvey made sure to catch all of the steps I missed. In my defense, when you’re covered in straps and handles that turn on oxygen or deploy a parachute, you tend to double check what you’re pulling!

Pup joined me in the small side-by-side cockpit, and talked me through the startup procedure once all of the pilots had checked in. The jets lined up on the runway in three groups of three, with #6 and #7 on our wings as the middle group. Pup explained the sequence as we rolled down the runway together and all nine aircraft worked to form up on our northbound leg.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
Flying smaller aircraft allows the team to operate out of smaller airports than the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. This helps them reach many smaller cities and towns across Canada’s rural regions. The team frequently performs self-contained Wednesday evening shows in towns that don’t feature a full airshow. They strive to inspire the audience, share the many opportunities available to men and women in the Canadian military, and demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork behind their aviation excellence. During their trips to the US, the team acts as ambassadors for Canada and highlights the long friendship between the two countries.

The scenery was breathtaking. In the clear afternoon air, we could easily see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Rainier in the distance while haze filled the valleys below us. The team went through a couple of formation changes as Pup explained the spacing and alignments. Although we didn’t really move around ourselves, the #4 position gave me a great view of the other aircraft moving around on both sides of us. The changes were far more sudden and crisp than other formation flights I’ve been on, but at the same time controlled and smooth. I wouldn’t expect any different from some of the world’s best!

With smoke on, we gave a big sweeping flyover to the citizens of Longview, WA as we turned west. Each aircraft dropped into trail as we descended toward the river, which for the Snowbirds means a follow-the-leader line of nine jets, each with the freedom to maneuver as needed. Pup, knowing I fly, handed me the controls and let me slalom behind the pack ahead of us as we wound down the river. The controls were responsive but not touchy. I felt right at home and I can understand why the aging jet is still perfect for formation displays. The coolest part of the entire flight was when I pulled us into a turn and blasted right through the smoke trail of #3, bobbling slightly as we crossed his wake.

Sadly, my part only lasted a few minutes before we were called to rejoin – a maneuver that included a few violent whips and the hardest G of the flight, probably around 4 or 5. That was the tame version, Pup explained to me; the rejoins during the scripted show are even quicker and tighter.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

Back in formation, we did two flybys over Astoria, including a low pass down the runway there before proceeding south along the coast. This was another dose of beautiful scenery, with big bluffs and rocky islands as far down the shoreline as the eye could see. Boss put us into a big 360 degree turn right over Tillamook Rock so that the pilots on each side of the formation could take in the view while also staring at his jet.

We continued a little further south, with a couple more formation changes thrown in. The ocean fell behind us as we climbed up over the hills of the Tillamook State Forest – a bad place to eject, Pup pointed out to me. The team dropped back into trail, and descended into Hillsboro as a line of white dots against the evergreens. The site survey was a quick four passes over the airport, then Pup whipped us back into formation again for a final Big Diamond flyby. The team separated into three groups of three again, and set down smoothly on the runway. Our techs marshaled us into position, perfectly spaced and lined up. My Snowbirds flight had come to an end.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

I’m forever grateful to the team for the opportunity to join them and I give special thanks again to Lt. Michèle Tremblay, Maj. Stephen Melanson, and Cpl. Brandon Harvey for their help. If you missed it above, make sure you check out the video of my Snowbird flight!

– Ryan Sundheimer

The Snowbirds have wrapped up their 2018 season, but I highly encourage you to make plans for one of their shows once the 2019 schedule is released in early December. You will be able to find that right here on the AirshowStuff blog, or in our forums.

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, And Snowbirds Combine For Incredible 21-Ship Mass Formation

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US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

In an historic moment, the US Navy Blue Angels, US Air Force Thunderbirds, and Canadian Forces Snowbirds joined together in a massive formation yesterday near Lake Erie. The three teams have crossed paths and flown jointly before, but this is believed to be the first and only time that all 21(!) display aircraft have shared the skies together.

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation FlightUS Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

The flight was only possible because all three teams are performing relatively close to each other this Labor Day weekend. The Snowbirds and Thunderbirds are in Toronto, ON for the Canadian International Air Show while the Blue Angels are in Cleveland, OH for the Cleveland National Air Show.

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

Photographer Glenn Watson captured the joint flight from the rear of the formation and all three teams shared these same photos on their social media pages. Hopefully more photos come out from another angle!

New Photo Album – TBM Avenger Gathering 2018

TBM Avenger Gathering 2018 Photo Album

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! This album from the 2018 TBM Avenger Gathering in Peru, IL contains warbird action on the ground, in the air, and on a special air to air photo flight. Check it out here: TBM Avenger Gathering 2018 – Ryan Sundheimer

Also be sure to check out our video playlist from the event!

New Photo Album – T-34 Mentor Pre-Oshkosh Gathering 2017

posted in: AirshowStuff, Event Recap, Warbirds | 0

T-34 Mentors Air to Air Over Lake Michigan

A new album is now available in our photo gallery! Check it out here:
T-34 Mentor Pre-Oshkosh Gathering 2017 (Manitowoc, WI) – Ryan Sundheimer

Also be sure to check out our video of our flights with the T-34s:

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – September 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – September 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from September 2017. Featuring a A-10 Warthog cockpit footage, B-52 Stratofortress operations, US Marine Corps aerial refueling of F-35 Lightning IIs and AV-8B Harriers, F-35 Lightning II and helicopter aircraft carrier operations aboard the USS Kearsarge and USS Gerald R Ford, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

This footage is courtesy of the Department of Defense and we are posting it solely for the enjoyment of our viewers. Its use is not meant to imply any endorsement of any kind.

Video credits:
Petty Officer 1st Class Josue Escobosa – Navy Media Content Services
Staff Sgt. Shellby Matullo – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Seaman Clint Davis – Navy Media Content Services
Master Sgt. Andrew Moseley – 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Tech. Sgt. Joe Laws – USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)
Tech. Sgt. Joseph J Prouse – 129th Rescue Wing
Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez and Cpl. Waiyan Tin – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
Senior Airman James Merriman – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Lance Cpl. Jonathon Wiederhold – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Airman 1st Class Stephanie Gelardo – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman James Merriman – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Pankau – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – August 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – August 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from August 2017. Featuring a live fire show of force in South Korea, B-1B Lancer operations, CH-53 sling load training, aerial refueling of F-22 Raptors, A-10 Warthogs, F-15 Eagles, F-18 Hornets, and a B-52 Stratofortress, aircraft carrier operations aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

Video credits:
Staff Sgt. Traci Keller – 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins – 3rd Combat Camera Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Micah Theurich – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Senior Airman Gabriela Keiser – 4th Fighter Wing
Joseph A Millar – USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
Senior Airman Izabella Sullivan – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Quinlan – Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet
Senior Airman Robert Mason – Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
Airman Audra Young – Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
Staff Sgt. Jonathan A Guzman – Air Force Content Management
William Lewis – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Airman Audra Young – Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado – 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Cpl. James Trevino – 1st Marine Logistics Group
Airman 1st Class Alexandra West – 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Draeke Layman – Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa
Courtesy Video – USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)
Staff Sgt. Alex Echols and Staff Sgt. Michael Kantack – 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – July 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – July 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from July 2017. Featuring A-10 Warthog live fire training, F-15 Eagle cockpit footage, aerial refueling of a B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress, aircraft carrier operations aboard the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz, mass helicopter operations, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

Video credits:
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Cpl. Austin Lewis – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Airman 1st Class Phillip M Guadiana-Gomez – 36th Wing Public Affairs
Sgt. Jorge Higuera and Spc. Bradey Pettit – 122nd Public Affairs Operations Center
Lance Cpl. Danielle Mills – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Lance Cpl. Jonathon Wiederhold – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Sgt. Brad Mincey – 108th Public Affairs Detachment
Senior Airman Joshua DeGuzman – Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
Charles Rosemond – Training Support Activity Europe
Airman 1st Class Alexandra West – 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airman Shawna Keyes – 4th Fighter Wing, Air Combat Command
Staff Sgt. Tom Conning – 122nd Public Affairs Operations Center
Senior Airman Mychal Fox and William Lewis – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Jason Van Mourik – 173rd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Julian Kemper – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Christina Ensley – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Sgt. Austin Majors – 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Petty Officer 1st Class Jose Hernandez – USS NIMITZ
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Michael Kantack – Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Airman Audra Young – Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Lance Cpl. Austin Weck – III Marine Expeditionary Force Combat Camera

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – June 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – June 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from June 2017. Featuring Red Flag Alaska takeoffs, T-38 Talon cockpit footage, aerial refueling of a B-1B Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress, Rafales, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-22 Raptors, and F-18 Hornets, USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier operations, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

Video credits:
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
Tech. Sgt. Micah Theurich – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Sarah Loicano – Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa
Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Logico – USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)
Airman 1st Class Tybee Hurst – 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Lance Cpl. Jaycee Martell – 2D Marine Division Combat Camera
Staff Sgt. Esteban Esquivel – 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Charles Rosemond – Training Support Activity Europe
Staff Sgt. Stephen Ellis – 86th Airlift Wing
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Sgt. Kowshon Ye – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Senior Airman Joshua DeGuzman – Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
Senior Airman Joshua Altice, Airman 1st Class Heidi Goodsell, Airman 1st Class Caitlin Gorsi and Airman 1st Class Caroline Parks – 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman Nicolas Myers – 633rd Air Base Wing

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – May 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – May 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from May 2017. Featuring Operation Northern Edge mass takeoffs, A-29 Super Tucano cockpit footage, aerial refueling of F-16 Fighting Falcons F-22 Raptors, A-10 Warthogs, and F-18 Hornets, an elephant walk at Moody AFB, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

Video credits:
Senior Airman Joshua DeGuzman – Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Kimball – Colorado National Guard
Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Litke – Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force
Staff Sgt. Esteban Esquivel – 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Damon Moritz – Navy Media Content Services
Lance Cpl. Serine Farahi – II Marine Expeditionary Force
Staff Sgt. John Raven – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Lance Cpl. Mark Lowe – Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Tech. Sgt. Micah Theurich – U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Andrew Moseley – 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Gallagher – Moody Air Force Base
Senior Airman Jacob Albers – 1st Combat Camera Squadron

Patrouille de France Wrap Up 2017 North American Tour, Join Snowbirds For 19-Ship Photo Flight

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Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Patrouille de France

The Patrouille de France finished off their 2017 North American tour with a bang last week, when they joined the Canadian Force Snowbirds for a joint formation flight. The massive group of 19 aircraft passed over Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, before overflying Montreal in Quebec.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Patrouille de France - Aero 150Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Patrouille de France

The teams performed for one another the weekend prior, at the Aero 150 airshow in Gatineau. The French worked their way home following the flyovers, hopping across the North Atlantic. They are now back in France and will participate in the European airshow season.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Patrouille de France

The Patrouille were also able to fly with both the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels during their tour, as well as performing at several airshows and enjoying photo flights over major US landmarks.

All photos courtesy of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Patrouille de France

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