For nearly every member of the squadron, training in Comox means the start of a new season, but for Trevor Llewellyn, it means coming home.
Llewellyn is the aviation technician crew chief for the Snowbirds Demonstration Team. As the only member from Comox, he considers the annual two-week training trek to the Valley a chance to come back to the area he knows very well.
“I put down deep roots — I have so many good friends in Comox. I own a home here … I started my military career here,” he said near the runway at 19 Wing Tuesday, shortly after takeoff for the afternoon practice.
As a self-titled military brat, Llewellyn began as an aviation systems technician, with his first posting in 1998 to the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron in Comox, where he worked on Labrador and Buffalo aircrafts.
He was promoted to sergeant and posted to the 2 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg prior to being offered a position with the Snowbirds. Llewellyn was trained as a servicing/snags supervisor, and appointed as crew chief this year.
He said there is always a learning curve with a new aircraft fleet, but now has a better appreciation and understanding of the demo team.
“I spent 12 years (in Comox) and I would always see the team coming every year to train when I was at 442. I didn’t quite understand the work that’s involved, and what it’s like to take the team on the road,” he noted.
“They’re flying two, or sometimes three times a day.”
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Capt. Thomas Edelson, public affairs officer for the team, said in addition to the varying terrain the Comox Valley offers, the two-week training period allows for new technicians to get used to what life is like away from the Snowbirds home base of Moose Jaw.
“When we’re on the road, we have limited tools. We bring a (semi) truck with us that carries a spare engine, parts, oil, gas, hoses and more. It has almost enough for a complete plane,” he explained.
There are 11 CT-114 Tutor jets that travel with the team, but only nine fly during formation, and each plane has its own technician.
“They are the muscles behind them — they really lay the foundation of what every one gets to see.”
Edelson noted over the course of the show season, the team will perform around 60 shows at 37 locations, from the beginning of May until mid-October.
This year, the Snowbirds are marking two milestones that work into the 2013 theme of The Pursuit of Excellence: the Squadron’s 70th anniversary since its founding as a bomber squadron during Second World War, and the 50th anniversary of flying the Canadian-built Tutor aircraft.
“There is skill, preparation and teamwork needed for the this years’ theme, and it’s purposely unattainable,” Edelson explained. “A perfect show will never happen; there might be just the smallest error but there is always the constant pursuit of being the best they can.”
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For those who want to meet the pilots, technicians and team members up close, the squadron is hosting a meet-and-greet autograph signing April 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Comox Air Force Museum just outside 19 Wing. The event is open to the public.