The clear sky over Vancouver Island Tuesday afternoon was the canvas that the Canadian Forces Snowbirds painted on while getting ready for the upcoming season.
The team is training on Vancouver Island for two weeks during May and is often popular with spectators as they prepare.
While pilots from all over the country were up in the skies flexing their aerial acrobatics, commanding officer Lt. Col. Denis Bandet says seeing it all come together is a long but rewarding process.
“It’s pretty amazing. I use the analogy of building a Lego set and we start off throughout the winter with one brick, one manoeuvre at a time,” said Bandet. “As we get through the winter, we start planning for our spring training in Comox.
“That’s when the set really comes together, and the show starts coming together and we start seeing all the pieces that make sense.”
Each pilot has over 1,000 hours of experience flying in other military aircraft before they are able to try out to fly with the team. They then go through extensive training where they live and breathe the Snowbirds experience throughout the winter until they reach the spring.
For Bandet, a former Snowbirds pilot and now commanding officer, being able to fly the planes is a dream that he will never forget after starting out in the military with F-18s.
“At the beginning of my career to where I am now, I’m just so grateful for the experiences and the opportunities that I have had,” said Bandet. “It all started with me going to an airshow and seeing this and realizing that it is possible, and people can do this.”
The team is in the area to practice until May 12 with the goal of hitting that perfect show for the season.
“You get so close, and we start pulling a part those little pieces about when the smoke came on, was a wing tip misaligned,” added Bandet. “It’s usually about end of September or October you start seeing those really tight, great shows.”