Major Chris Hope and Captain Padruig Macintosh (red flightsuits) of the Snowbirds

Major Chris Hope and Captain Padruig Macintosh (red flightsuits) of the Snowbirds

Cadets get to meet Snowbirds despite cancellation

While the city may not have gotten to see the snowbirds in action other than a practice fly-by on Wednesday afternoon, Prince Rupert's cadets corps got to meet the pilots at a presentation at the Crest Hotel before the show.

Much to the disappointment of many Rupertites, the Snowbirds air show was cancelled due to the weather on the only rainy day in an otherwise uncommonly sunny week. The reason for the cancelation was the cloud cover.

The snowbirds have three different shows they can perform depending on the weather conditions. A high-altitude show, a low-altitude show and a flat show, all of which have different manoeuvres depending on how high the pilots can climb while still having good visibility. The stunt-flying squadron of the Canadian Airforce needed at least 1000 feet of clear air to perform the flat show; but at show time it was foggy even at ground level.

Before the show, squadron leader Maj. Chris Hope, put-off cancelling because he said he would make the call on whether it was safe for he and his pilots to fly at show-time, hoping that the nasty afternoon weather would clear up by then. So the downtown of Prince Rupert was packed with spectators — some of which had driven all the way from Smithers — waiting to watch planes that couldn’t put on a show for them.

“ This year we’ve lost about three shows [due to the weather]. I’m always optimistic, right up until the time when I have to make the call. The decision is usually made for me because the rules are so ridged. So, either have the weather, or I don’t,” said Maj. Hope before the performance.

While the city may not have gotten to see the snowbirds in action other than a practice fly-by on Wednesday afternoon, Prince Rupert’s cadets corps got to meet the pilots at a presentation at the Crest Hotel before the show.

The meeting between the cadets and Canada’s most famous fighter pilots was a meet-your-heroes moment combined with a recruitment drive . The cadets were very interested in learning about how the Snowbirds operate and how pilots get to join the squadron. One cadet even knew that they flew CT-114 Tutor jets and have done so for over 40 years. Jets that the federal government says they will continue to fly at least until 2020.

“I would love to see a new Canadian-built airplane come back into the scenario. The reality is, I love the Tutor. I’ve got 5100 hours on the machine, it’s my baby, it’s like putting on a pair of comfortable blue jeans,” says Maj. Hope.

The meeting was also a bit of a recruitment session as the pilots told the cadets that being from a small town will not limit them in any way if they chose to be in the military, which is the way it can seem in other professions. Over half of the pilots in the Snowbirds were in cadets themselves when they were younger and a member of their technicians and other officers, Mac Velasco, is actually from Prince George.

“I grew up in a farming community where everyone expected you to stay and become a farmer or join some other aspect of the farming industry. So, [the military] is giving people options, everyone has their own niche in life and we try to fulfill it,” says Maj. Hope.