Monday, September 16, 2019

When Snowbirds fly

Magic in the air
London, ON
September 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
At first glance, this looks like a straightforward pic of an oh-so-Canadian scene: 9 jets from Canada’s aerobatic flight demonstration team, The Snowbirds, flying a tight formation high above London. This scene plays out in dozens of burgs across the country every year, and it never gets old.

The Snowbirds - @cfsnowbirds - are often compared to the US Air Force Thunderbirds, or the US Navy Blue Angels. While those latter two teams are incredible, it does a disservice to the Canadian team to do a one-to-one comparison.

First, the planes. The Thunderbirds fly F-16s, while the Blue Angels fly legacy F/A-18 Hornets and will soon transition to the Super Hornet. The Snowbirds fly the CT-114 Tutor, a jet-powered trainer that first flew in 1960. Apples, meet oranges.

Front-line fighters with digital flight controls and better-than-1-to-1 power-to-weight ratios allow the kind of displays that lesser aircraft can only dream of. Which makes a Snowbirds demo seem even more miraculous, because they have to manage energy far more carefully than the average spectator might realize.

Second, old planes, with completely analog systems, add another layer of challenge. Because the only computer keeping everything together is the squishy, red-suited one with two hands on the stick.

We’re justifiably proud of them, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched them do their thing. But for all their aerial wizardry, it’s what this team represents that makes them extra-special, that unique mixture of Canadian brilliance, humility, creativity, and grit for making do with what we’ve been given.

As I stand on the ground and watch them, awestruck, I ponder the meaning of this nationally treasured resource, and realize it has more to do with people than planes. Inspiration takes many forms, after all, and after the last plane has landed and shut down, I think about how I, too, can go further with what I’ve been given.

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1 comment:

Shammickite said...

I've seen the Snowbirds whizz across the sky at many Air Shows, and I am always in awe of their expertise and flair! Hooray for the Snowbirds!!