Snowbirds fly in annual home opener

Moose Jaw Times Herald - Editorial Staff
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Snowbirds announcers did what they do best on Friday during the home opener show.

If it’s not wind, it’s snow and rain. This year it was only wind.

“The home opener here in Moose Jaw always had its share of challenges,” said Christopher England, commanding officer of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. “We can’t seem to ever get ideal conditions.”

Although the weather for the 44th Snowbirds home opener was not perfect Friday afternoon, the show was still spectacular for the large crowd in attendance at 15 Wing.

“We came here this afternoon and it was a challenge but I am proud of all the team,” said Patrick Gobeil, Snowbirds team leader. “Everybody made it happen. We had a good show over all. Definitely it was a workout out there today.”

In fact, Gobeil admitted that conditions Friday were the hardest he had seen all year.

“It was a little bit like flying under a shower cloud,” he said. “There was a lot of unexpected bumps here in the prairies.”

The show was the first of 50 shows across North America for the Snowbirds. This year the team will be flying as far north as Yellowknife, N.W.T., as far east as Stephenville, N.L., as far south as southern Missouri and as far west as Redding, Calif.

Although it’s their 44th year, the group is still finding ways to be creative with the show.

“This year we have one manouevre we have never done before in the history of the Snowbirds. We call it the 431 roll,” said Gobeil.

England told the Times-Herald that he told the 11-plane team to push themselves to be great.

“My challenge to the team lead this year was to make the show dynamic, entertaining and sort of keep the crowd guessing as to what direction the aircraft was approaching from and I think they hit the nail on the head,” said England.

Friday’s show was special for the Snowbirds team because it was a show that was primarily for their friends and family — of which there were 22 children that belonged to squadron members, said England.

“It’s very special to do this show,” said Gobeil. “We do it for the families who support us all year long and it is very special to see the turn out today. Everybody came out to see the show and we definitely appreciate it.”

For the Snowbirds, Friday’s show was a relief after months of training. Each pilot flew 130 missions before they were ready to put on the air show for those in attendance.

England said this off-season was an especially difficult one, because they had many new pilots in new positions.

“Every time you introduce a new team lead, it’s difficult,” England said. “We had a new number one this year as well as four new wing pilots. It’s a challenge to learn how that new team lead will work with the group and how his profiles will be like.”

The nearest location Moose Jaw residents can see the Snowbirds this year will be in Whitecourt, Alta., where the Snowbirds will be flying for the first time.

Nathan Frank can be reached at 306-691-1263.

Organizations: Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, England, North America Yellowknife Stephenville Southern Missouri Redding, Calif. Whitecourt

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