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Snowbirds love returning to Comox Valley every year
Maj. Chris Hope considers Comox to be the Snowbirds' second home.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds arrived Monday at 19 Wing Comox. Hope, who is from Blenheim, Ont., and is in his second year as Team Lead was excited to begin the squadron's annual spring training deployment in Comox.
"One, the scenery is gorgeous; the West Coast is just beautiful," he said Tuesday morning following the team's first practice. "It provides us all the opportunities of what we're going to see in our show season, we come here and put it into practice, from a water site to the beautiful mountains, the big runway and all the beautiful aspects that are around here.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm coming out to Comox. It's just completely different. One, we don't have to shovel snow here, which is just beautiful, but it is a great opportunity to get on the road, operate like we're going to operate on the road, which is very exciting for everybody involved."
This year, the Snowbirds' main theme is Celebrating Canadian Heroes.
"We've designed a little different show this year," said Hope. "Unfortunately, the weather in Moose Jaw has not provided us all of our training opportunities, so we're still putting the finishing touches on our show at this point. We've got a few different things that people will see and hopefully they'll like."
The Snowbirds, who have five new team members this year, will perform 56 shows in 35 cities in Canada and the United States, beginning with their acceptance show May 3 in Moose Jaw.
"The reception we get is always amazing," said Hope, who flew Snowbird 5 from 2003-05. "I honestly think the Snowbirds have become ingrained in the Canadian fabric, something that like the RCMP's shows and stuff like that where people can really recognize and are really proud of the job that we do. That's one of the things I'm trying to continue, that professionalism and teamwork and all the things that go with it to make Canadians proud of the job we do."
The Snowbirds will be practising two or three times a day until April 19.
"We've had a lot of weather in Moose Jaw and different things that have slowed us down, so we're just getting out and doing basics, loops and rolls and getting used to flying over the water," said Hope. "We're hoping by the end of the week, we'll start flying full practices. Our focus out here is training; it always has been, this year even more so with the challenges we've gone through."
This year’s training camp will also include the presence of the CF-18 Demonstration Team from April 10-17.
The Snowbirds will be conducting training flights over and in the vicinity of 19 Wing Comox twice a day at roughly 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and they will perform a public show April 16 at Air Force Beach and sign autographs that afternoon at the Comox Air Force Museum at 1 p.m.