The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are back home at 15 Wing Moose Jaw for more practice.
The 431 Air Demonstration Squadron officially began their 2017 air show season April 30 in Gatineu, QC but within a week realized that their proficiency wasn't meeting expectations. After recognizing some formation issues at shows earlier this month, they canceled the rest of their scheduled appearances through May and the first week of June.
Lt. Col. Brad Wintrup is Commanding Officer of the Snowbirds, and said there were issues with a particular maneuver during performances in Fort Lauderdale, FL May 6 and 7.
"The lead was upside down but was pushing so that his nose was tracking up towards the sky and the number four jet ended up pulling towards the ground..or in this case, the water," explained Wintrup. "The recovery altitude was below normal and we said "that shouldn't probably be happening at this point in our proficiency."
"It was becoming a consistent trend that folks were not in their expected positions and they were deviating somewhat from their normal contract, which is a four-foot cubed box, which isn't much space."
Wintrup says a lack of practice time this year is partly to blame, as the Snowbirds practiced "about 25 fewer times than normal" through the winter due to poor weather.
"We have initiated a flight safety investigation to see if there's anything we can learn from the incident in Fort Lauderdale, but that was self-initiated," he continued. "There was no danger to the public or danger to other members of the formation."
Snowbirds Team Lead, Major Patrick Gobeil, is the one who suggested interrupting their season in exchange for more practice, and Wintrup was impressed.
"That's exactly the kind of leadership we need in our RCAF units," Wintrup stated. "That lends to the culture and the legacy of the Air Force. That's the kind of Air Force we want to have."
"We will never cancel a show that we can otherwise make," said Wintrup, adding that generally only mechanical issues would get in the way of a performance. "It was very difficult to depart from that and to say 'gentlemen, we need to take a pause to make sure we're ready for show season'."
Wintrup says the Snowbirds should be ready to resume their 2017 schedule June 10-11 in Dundurn. For the rest of the 2017 schedule, click here.