Returning to Comox for nearly month-long training makes homecoming that much sweeter for Capt. Matthew Hart for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
Hart, who flies Snowbird 5, is from Parksville, and having his family nearby to watch him practise in the sky over the Comox Valley is “a dream come true.
“To be honest, the last six months since I officially joined the team has gone by very quickly. It’s been by far the most challenging thing I’ve done, but by far the most rewarding thing I’ve done, and it’s been an absolute honour,” he said Monday. “I’m just so excited to be able to have the opportunity to do that for the next two years.”
Hart left Vancouver Island at age 17 to pursue a career in aviation. He said it became quite clear to him that the military/air force had plenty of opportunities for travel, training and career advancement.
“I realized that with all the different roles that the air force carries out in terms of domestic sovereignty patrols, search and rescue – as in Comox here – that it was a career I was interested in taking on.”
While he saw the Snowbirds perform at air shows, Hart never thought he could become a pilot. He noted once he entered the airforce, he realized it was something that was attainable, “with some hard work and a little bit of luck.”
With family in Duncan and Qualicum Beach, Hart said his mom was able to watch their Sunday practice, and while team didn’t complete the entire routine, he admitted it was nice to have her nearby.
“Being from the Island, for all the young ones out there that aspire to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing, all I can recommend … is work as hard as you can at everything you do,” he added. “Never set your goals low. Just shoot for the highest possible thing you want to do, and never doubt yourself and anything is attainable if you work extremely hard and have a little bit of luck – you can accomplish anything.”
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Snowbird 1 team lead Maj. Patrick Gobeil said the upcoming season is the Snowbirds’ 45th anniversary, and as a result, the team is planning to wow audiences across North American with different formations.
“Every year we have the option of mixing up things. This year, we’re bringing back the double take, the double inverted – that hasn’t been done in a while,” he noted.
It’s really a show that we bring together with the dynamic of the team and we really have a lot of flexibility. I think the show this year will really be a crowd pleaser.”
A new addition this year is a camera pod attached to Gobeil’s plane which provides a unique perspective for both training purposes for the pilots and fans of the team.
“… we have two diesel tanks, and one is replaced with a flat, clear bubble at the end, and we have three cameras inside. It looks like they are outside, but they are actually inside the diesel tank, so it’s basically looking back to the formation from the Snowbird One jet.”
As a training tool, the team will use the cameras as an extra eye in the sky. Gobeil noted when something happens airborne, there a lot of things the team doesn’t see from the camera on the ground.
“When we fly, when people get close, we call shadows, and if we get inside certain spacing, we can call it safety, and now we have a direct perspective. You have a much better perspective to stop the issues and get the team even better.”
The team trains in the Comox Valley until April 30, and will fly their official acceptance show April 28 over the Comox waterfront.