© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Capt. Gregg Wiebe, Snowbird 4, left, and Tanner Eberle from the Moose Jaw Warriors return from their flight Monday.
Two of Moose Jaw’s most famous teams continued to learn about — and from — each other this past weekend.
The Moose Jaw Warriors spent Monday with the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron — the Snowbirds. It is the second year the two units have spend a day in each other’s worlds and both sides have seen a lot of benefits.
“I think what we try to talk to them about is accountability,” said Capt. Gregg Wiebe, Snowbird 4. “We have an environment where you don’t have to hide any errors. For obvious safety reasons we can’t afford that at all. We accept the fact that we are never going to fly a perfect mission. So you note your errors and you debrief all of your errors. That’s important. It’s assumed you are always going to put in 100 per cent effort to fix your errors.
“They probably never have a perfect game either, but don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes with the aim towards always improving and the aim to be the best you can.”
Though the young hockey players don’t have the same life experience that the veteran pilots do, the Snowbirds felt that they have also learned from the exchange since it began a year ago.
“It’s great for us to show them what we do and it’s great to be invited behind the scenes and see how they prepare. I’ll be honest, last year took a few pointers that we picked up in their locker room and we applied them to what we do in our briefing room,” said Capt. Denis Bandet, Snowbird 6.
“The openness to criticism is something we try to strive for and we got a glimpse at how the Warriors do it as well. We try to made our briefings and debriefings as open and honest as possible to try to make us better. That’s something we picked up from the Warriors as well.”
The Snowbirds will spend the March 9 game day with the Warriors as they prepare to face the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Warriors will have special Snowbird themed jerseys for the game and each of the Snowbirds will get their own jersey. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to benefit the children’s ward at Moose Jaw Union Hospital.
Monday was a memorable day for Warriors forwards Tanner Eberle and Sam Fioretti as they flew with the Snowbirds. Fioretti, who flew with Bandet, was ill during his flight, but still enjoyed the experience.
“It’s crazy. One second you’re upside down, the next second you’re diving at the ground,” said Fioretti. “It’s a lot to soak in right away, but it was pretty awesome.”
Fioretti said that after captain Kendall McFaull was ill on last year’s flight he wasn’t surprised that he followed suit.
Bandet said that they didn’t take it easy on their passengers and tried to maximize their experience in the air.
“It’s not an easy trip. We probably looped 15 or 16 times and we flew the ground tracks for our opener,” said Bandet. “He did really well. His breakfast made a reappearance, but I told him not to feel bad because one shift on the ice with them and I would be doing the same thing.”
Beyond the high speeds that they were travelling at, the g-force — the gravitational force exerted on the occupant — was the most jarring aspect of the flight.
“I honestly can’t even really describe it. If anything, I would say it was like the world’s best roller-coaster,” said Eberle.
“The amount of Gs in a loop was just ridiculous. I felt like I was going to black out every time we did it.”
Eberle said his favourite part was following right on the tail of Snowbird 1 and following their movements.
“It was g-force after g-force for 10 minutes,” said Eberle. “It was something I will probably never get to do again and most people never get to experience.”
Anyone who has flown with the Snowbirds always talks about the physical toll the g-forces put on you and how exhausting it can be.
“I’m really tired. I don’t think I sweat this much in a game,” said Fioretti.
Wiebe, a 51-year-old who has worked previously as a flight instructor, said the whole experience presents challenges for a non-pilot.
“You’re strapped in tight. You have an oxygen mask on, so you feel very claustrophobic,” said Wiebe. “It’s a better than average chance that most people will either get sick or they are going to feel very poorly at the end of the mission. I told (Eberle) that he beat the odds.”
Wiebe added that he has enjoyed sharing his experiences in the air with the Warriors.
“It is great to take people up and let them experience it. Especially for these guys,” said Wiebe. “I’m a season ticket holder. I love going out to watch these guys play hockey and put a good show on the ice. It’s great to give them something in return.”