Canada's Snowbirds aerobatics team takes to sky for Santa Rosa air show
Warm welcomes are typical when Canada’s Snowbirds flight team lands somewhere in North America for one of its thrilling, graceful aerobatic shows.
Thursday’s reception at the Sonoma County Airport was perhaps toastier than most.
The temperature hovered near 95 degrees as members of the Pacific Coast Air Museum greeted the first two sleek, red-and-white Snowbirds jets. Earlier that morning, cool fog had delayed the famed military team’s departure from its home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
“It’s fall back home,” said Snowbirds spokeswoman Patricia Brunelle, a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force, after she felt the heat upon climbing from the two-seat jet piloted by Capt. Regan Wickett.
The 4:20 p.m. arrival of the team’s first two Canadair CT-114 turbojet trainers was followed by the touching down of 12 more. Nine of them will take to the air in close formation on Saturday and Sunday in the air museum’s Wings Over Wine Country air show.
Temperatures both days look to be several degrees more hospitable to Canadians and other living things.
The air show has been light on military jets the last few years so members of the air museum, located at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County airport, are excited about the Snowbirds’ first-ever visit to the county.
In addition to the precision team’s performances, this weekend’s show will feature aerial feats by an F-16 Fighting Falcon and, from the Korean conflict, an F-86 Sabre and its combat rival, the Russian-built MiG-15.
The Snowbirds - officially the Canadian Armed Forces’ 431 Air Demonstration Squadron - are wrapping up its 45th performance season. Since last spring, the team has put on 55 shows at 35 locations across Canada and the United States.
Brunelle noted that the Snowbirds achieved a major milestone in late August: the squadron completed its 2,500th show.
All of the Snowbird pilots are active-duty Royal Canadian Air Force aviators who competed for the right to join the team for two-year stints. The single-engine trainers they fly are far lighter and slower than the fighter jets of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds of the U.S. Air Force.
But the Snowbird pilots don’t view their jets’ smaller size and lesser power as disadvantages.
“Our jets aren’t as fast as the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds,” Brunelle said, “so we’re able to stage in front of the crowd longer.” The Snowbirds pilots also make full use of the nimbleness of the CT-114s.
People living or working near the county airport between Santa Rosa and Windsor will get a preview of the Snowbirds show as the team practices Friday, starting at about 3:30 p.m. The shows Saturday and Sunday will happen at about that same time.
The team’s theme this year is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The theme honors the more than 100 Canadian aviators who, in 1940, helped to drive back Nazi Germany’s massive aerial attack on Great Britain. Twenty-three Canadians lost their lives.
The Snowbirds will conclude the 2015 travel season with a show next weekend in Sacramento. Then it’s back to Moose Jaw to begin training for near year.
Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @CJSPD.