News / Ottawa

Canada's famed Snowbirds cancel airshows; officials say they need more practice

The aerobatic team has cancelled shows in six cities in Canada and the United States. They plan to return in June.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform during day one of the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto in September 2016.

MELISSA RENWICK / TORONTO STAR

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform during day one of the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto in September 2016.

OTTAWA— Canada's famed Snowbirds have hit pause on their airshow season after deciding they need more practice.

In a rare move, the team has abruptly cancelled scheduled appearances in six cities in Canada and the United States over the coming weeks.

Instead, the team, formally known as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, are returning to their base in Moose Jaw, Sask., for “additional practice and training” before returning to the airshow circuit sometime in June.

The military said Tuesday that no one was available to speak about the decision. But in a Facebook posting, the team said that despite several “well-executed” shows so far, more training was needed.

“A reduced training period hampered by poor weather which continued into the show season, resulted in numerous cancelled practices. As a result, more training is required,” said Maj. Patrick Gobeil, the Snowbirds team lead, said in the posting.

The military could not say whether a close call during one of its early performances triggered the safety stand down.

The team said it would resume its schedule “once we have the consistency required for our dynamic nine-aircraft aerobatic performance.”

Scrubbed from the schedule are performances in Rochester, N.Y.; Quonset Air National Guard Base, R.I.; Fort Erie; Windsor; Whiteman, Mo.; and Duluth, Minn.

The Snowbirds fly nine single-engine Tutor jets in a range of dramatic maneuvers, often just 1.2 metres apart. Flying from their base in Moose Jaw, the team spends the winter working on the maneuvers that will make up the show, starting first in loose formation and then flying closer as the pilots — all veteran air force members — become more proficient.

In the spring, the team moves to Comox, B.C., for several weeks of intense flying to work out the final kinks before hitting the road to airshows across the continent.

The team had launched their 2017 season in Gatineau on April 30, where they were joined by the French demonstration team, Patrouille de France. The Snowbirds had flown two more complete shows in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Memphis, Tenn.

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