As the CT-114 Tutor jets touch down on the Quesnel tarmac, there’s a palpable sense of excitement. Canada’s premier Canadian Forces Snowbirds have entered the hot box.
Each jet is precisely placed not a millimetre out of place, waved in by a member of the ground crew. As the cockpit canopy flips up, pilots and co-pilots remove their helmets, stretch up to the sky and clamber out of the jet. For the next few days, Quesnel will be their home, the tarmac their backyard and the spectators their family. It’s showtime.
Captain Regan Wickett is pilot of Snowbird 11 and team coordinator. Although this is his first year with the precision flying team, Wickett is thoroughly trained, not only as a military pilot but also on airshow protocol.
“We are all still on active military duty and this deployment is just like any other,” he said.
When asked what surprised him about this deployment, Wickett replied he couldn’t believe how busy the schedule is.
“We have 55 shows at 35 locations throughout the season,” he said.
Also in his first year with the Snowbirds, Captain Maciej Hatta flies Snowbird 6 and his formation position is outer right wing.
Trained for all possible scenarios, Hatta said the most remote show so far this year was in Winneposis, 300 km northwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 8.
It’s just a matter of tailoring their show to the location and before each show they lay out their airshow route and practice, practice, practice.
For both pilots, they’re living the dream.
“Flying is amazing and this is very specialized for formation aerobatics,” Wickett said.
“However, our core pilot skills are there, we just focus on the show.”
Each year the show changes as to the dictates of the current Snowbird boss.
Wickett said the classics are always there in the show but every show is different.
“Classics with lots of new and vintage snowbird elements,” he said.
While attending any airshow both pilots emphasized how important it is to interact with the public and present a positive image, especially for the youth.
“We want to inspire youth to see what they can achieve,” Hatta said.
“It may not be the military but just dream big.”
After taking off on Monday, the Snowbirds head for Penticton for another show and another crowd.