Snowbirds roar back into action over Comox Valley

Spring is finally here and, now, the Snowbirds are, too.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds arrived at 19 Wing Comox Monday afternoon to prepare for the 2011 season with their annual spring training deployment.

The squadron will stay at 19 Wing Comox until April 19.

"As always, this is something that's become an annual thing for the Snowbirds, going to 19 Wing and spending time in the Comox Valley," said Capt. Marc Velasco, the squadron's public affairs officer, said from Kelowna Monday afternoon as the team was on is way to Comox. "It's a time of preparation for the guys. They're quite focused on the upcoming season, and the guys are really proud to be representing the Canadian Forces and Canadians all across Canada. It's something we're very eager and looking forward to getting into."

The Snowbirds will conduct training flights over and in the vicinity of 19 Wing Comox twice a day between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. every day, according to a public service announcement from 19 Wing Comox.

Members of the public should expect increased aircraft activity and noise for that period, it noted.

This year’s training camp will also include the presence of the CF-18 Demonstration Team, which will be at 19 Wing from April 10 to 17.

There will be an opportunity to see the Snowbirds perform April 16 when they hold a public practice at Air Force Beach, followed by an autograph session at the Comox Air Force Museum at 1 p.m. to show their appreciation to the Comox Valley.

Pre-season training is an annual event where the squadron deploys away from its home base in Moose Jaw to get used to flying over varied terrain and under different flying conditions.

With the mountainous terrain as well as open water nearby, the Comox Valley is an ideal location to prepare for the season.

"Practising out of 19 Wing Comox gives us the opportunity to practise over varied terrains," said Velasco. "The Prairies don't give us that varied terrain over mountains and water. As well, it takes away some of the comforts of our home base and gets us used to performing on the road."

Over the course of the 2011 show season from May to October, the Snowbirds will perform in 35 different cities across Canada and in the United States.

"We need to remain flexible and get used to changing conditions, and being out at 19 Wing Comox allows us to do that," he said.

This year, the Snowbirds' main theme will be celebrating Canadian heroes. The team is in the process of developing a new manoeuvre called the Hero Split, according to Velasco.

"This is in honour of Canadians across the country who have contributed to the pride and development of Canada," he said, noting this includes everyone from industry leaders to heroes in the Canadian Forces, police and fire departments.

"It's a recurring theme. It's something that needs to be done. It started last year with the Olympics in Vancouver, and it's something we want to continue. The Snowbirds are a symbol of Canada and a symbol of national pride, and we want to continue that in the 2011 season."

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