One of the many benefits of living in Courtenay (aside from the weather) is that the Snow Birds come here every April to finish their training.  The team is based in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan where they train all winter in clear skies and boring flat landscape.  Every year before they go on the road they come here for 2 weeks to practice their routines out of the Comox Air Base.  This gives them the variety of a mountain range on one side and the ocean on the other so they are better prepared for the many locals they will see over the summer.

We get the benefit of 2 airshows over our house every day.  One at 9 am and the other at 2 pm.  Tudor jets flying in tandem or groups rushing back and forth practicing their various arrangements with loops and twists.  Sometimes they have to repeat as there is always another jet flying beside or above to critique and tighten their groupings.  Very nice.

But at least once every visit there is another routine and that is not on the official training synopsis.  On a crystal clear evening such as tonight the Snow Birds take off and head west over the mountains in pairs.  I expect the official reason quoted for the auditor  is that this is on the books as a training over rough territory, but I know this is the pilot’s reward.  They fly through (not over) the mountains on a beautiful evening and play tag with their partner.  Everything that you could imagine as a pilot zooming between mountains and then doing loops over the Pacific and returning they are doing this evening.  As I said this is the reward for guys dedicating themselves to a strict routine and I have no problem with it (although they are burning tax payers fuel)

When I was 17 I took my pilot’s license training in Regina.  I had obtained a scholarship through Air Cadets.  20 Air Cadets taking their training at the same time (I expect today that is a $5000 or more today)

The course was run by a private company and each student was allotted so many hours on the planes.  As it happened I passed my solo and cross country flight with 2 more hours of payed-for flight time.  (I was actually the first of the group to solo alone but that is another story)

A buddy of mine on the course named Dennis Hendricks also had extra time available once we had passed all the tests.  So we agreed to check out two of the training planes and head off together.  We did not have to practice stalls or navigation we could just  fly around.  It was a beautiful Saskatchewan morning with little puffy clouds.  We switched the radio to an unused channel and chased each other through the clouds pretending we were WWI fighter pilots. These were Piper Cubs with 80 hp engines so not high speed.

Still, in my memory that was the best flying I have ever experienced.  Using the skills to turn and bank and climb and dive….. it was the closest I ever came to the concept of body flying.  It was lovely (and I did get onto Dennis’s tail at one point and go RATATATAT on the radio. )

I think the Snow Bird pilots are getting their version of this feeling this evening and all power to them.

Snowbird Practice