You can probably guess by the title of this post that I had a chance to photograph 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Snowbirds. The last time I did that was on film, over 30 years ago. Back then I couldn’t get enough of air shows, and the Snowbirds were always my favourite performance at them. I went to the Abbotsford International Airshow many times when I was young, as well as several others. The amazing precision flying in the old Tutor aircraft never failed to impress me, and I have no doubt played a big part in my positive impression of the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole. I am quite certain this played a big part in my eventual enrolment and 25 year career in the CAF, where I got to see places and do things that most people only experience on TV or at the movies.
After the tragic end to last year’s season for the Snowbirds, I was very happy to hear that they were going to be flying again this year, and would be doing some training at Canadian Forces Base / 19 Wing Comox, which is within the zone I am allowed to travel during our current Covid restrictions. I had a rare day off during the week and got up extra early to drive there. It was a beautiful day, with low lying fog near home, which on any other day, would have made me want to stay to do photography in the local woods, but not this time. I arrived in Comox early and was warming up with my camera when I got a surprise…
A pair of CF-18’s took off and did a couple passes over the airfield a little while before the Snowbirds took to the air, as did a CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue helicopter.
While it may ‘only’ been a training day, I was primed for the main event. By the time the Snowbirds took to the air, there was a good sized, appropriately socially distanced, crowd of two dozen or so photographers in the open area where I was. As the roar of the engines grew louder with the ascent of the Tutors, the clicking of the shutters became frenzied. The mountains made for a nice backdrop, but the chainlink fence between the runway and my position made things a little more challenging than at an actual airshow.
When they were training over the water, which was behind me (in relation to my position facing the airfield) I was able to capture some exciting maneuvers without any obstructions, but the background wasn’t as picturesque.
Watching the Snowbirds training flights over 35 years after I first saw them preform and I still felt the excitement I did way back then; perhaps even more! I’m planning on going back to the Abbotsford International Airshow (hopefully this year) to see a variety of planes and demonstration teams perform, but I have no doubt which my favourite will be again.
I hope you enjoyed this departure from my usual landscape / nature photography.