CFB Snowbirds school in session over Comox Valley
From a solo demonstration pilot to leading his team of nine, Maj. Patrick Gobeil is using the Snowbirds training in Comox to full advantage.
"We've been here now for just over one week and the show has come a long way," said the team lead and 2012 CF-18 demonstration pilot. "We're flying two shows a day. As snowbird pilots and technicians, we're very, very critical about our performances; there's a lot of challenges ahead to fine-tune the show."
The annual practice for the team continues in the Valley until May 7, and their twice-daily practices prepare the team for its 90th anniversary season, which sees the team participate in 50 shows in 32 locations, explained Capt. Thomas Edelson, public affairs officer for the team.
"We open May 9 with our first show, and close October 3. We have five shows in the States which have been put back on the schedule," he said.
"We're really looking forward to our show in Stephenville, Newfoundland. We haven't been there for 10 years."
Gobeil said training in the Comox Valley gives his team the ability to understand not only various terrain, but what what life is like on the road.
"At home, from a technician point of view, we have all the support personnel — equipment, engines. Here on the road we're basically nine jets plus the two spares and we have to do the maintenance on our own here so that's one thing."
Additionally, flying over water in the area is a huge part of training, he added.
"Over water, we use a lot of references of looking out the window. Just to give an example, I'm doing a loop, I'm looking at the mirrors in the background, and when you have ground, it gives you a rate, but over waters when it's calm, it's extremely challenging, it's very challenging for us."
He said when practising at home in Moose Jaw, Sask., they utilize a 4,000-feet strip as a runway, and in Comox, the 10,000-feet runway is also good training for the team.
With unsettled weather during the first week of training in Comox, Gobeil explained the team works with three different types of shows for the various weather conditions, which are based on ceiling and visibility.
"If we have a very good day we can loop and roll. If we don't have the ceiling to do a loop, we have a show we call a low show where we can still spread the formation and do crosses, we just won't do any vertical maneuvering. Most of the time the weather has to be pretty bad for us not to go fly, but basically our limit is about 1,000 feet."
In addition to the daily practices, Edelson noted the team will host a public meet-and-greet and autograph signing May 3 at the Comox Air Force Museum shortly after 5 p.m.
Weather dependent, the team will also perform a fly-by/photo opportunity in Campbell River May 2, with a back-up day May 3 alongside the Buffalo aircraft and CF-18 Hornet, with an approximate time of 3 p.m.