The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are back, and they're ready to entertain at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport on June 14 and June 15.
"We're glad to be back here in Tillsonburg," said communications officer Thomas Edelson, the only red-suited non-pilot on the Snowbirds team.
When the Snowbirds' London show had canceled, Tillsonburg, already preparing for an August 23 airshow, was selected as a replacement, similar to 2012 when Brantford was unable to host the Snowbirds due to runway issues.
"It's very rare that we go to a show every year," aid Edelson. "There's only a few in Canada that are basically perennial like the CNE (Toronto) or Abbotsford (BC) or Canada Day in Ottawa.
"To go back to a show in two years, it doesn't happen all the time. You want to go back to the shows that are well run, that are safe, that are appreciated by the community."
The local community will have a chance to appreciate the Snowbirds pilots Saturday morning at Turtlefest. Members of the team are scheduled to be on-stage at the fairgrounds (Memorial Park) at 9:30 a.m. for an information question-answer session with the public.
"I just hope the public gets a chance to come out to see a little slice of Royal Canadian Air Force. I think it's a great show. Hopefully the weather's good and we certainly look forward to another good show in Tillsonburg."
Edelson still remembers the 2012 Tillsonburg show.
"Sometimes the smaller shows have more of a lasting memory," said Edelson, who is in his third year on the team. "I still remember the Tillsonburg airport, I remember the debriefing room, the layout. It's kind of fun when we get to go back to shows. Tillsonburg was a great show last time – I remember the Harvards."
After landing at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Snowbirds took to the air Wednesday afternoon for 'specialty' training
"It's not practicing the show, it's practicing certain maneuvers. Whatever the guys want to work on, or what the boss wants to work on."
The Snowbirds had a 'day off' Thursday.
"We'll be doing some more practicing on Friday, and obviously the shows on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. We'll see what the weather looks like.
"Depending on the weather, we have a high show, low show, flat show – everything is measured against visibility and clouds.
"If the weather is great both days, it'll be the same show. If we have weather like today (Tuesday) which is great, nice high ceiling, we'd be doing a high show. A high show runs about 35 minutes, nine planes, lots of solo maneuvers, lots of smaller formations, lots of nine-ship formations, all timed to music and good narration.
"So it's 35 minutes, but it goes by very fast. There's always something to look at, there's always something to see."
The show changes each year, he said, so spectators this weekend will see a different show from the last, along with some recognizable elements.
"There's always some new injects each year. We have a new boss year... so with the new team comes a whole new set of interests and skill sets for flying. So there will be some new stuff."
Snowbird pilots and planes are numbered, 1-9.
"Traditionally a lot of the pilots have come from a fighter community or training community,"Edelson explained. "This year we have quite a mix."
The boss, No. 2, and No. 6 all come from a fighter community. No. 3 has a background with Sea King helicopters and trainers. No. 4 comes from transport (Hercules) and trainer, No. 5 was multi-engine and trainers, and No. 7-9 trainers.
"So there's quite a mish-mash. Basically you need to have a lot of hours flying formation. That's really what it comes down to, that's where start getting comfortable and that's what is going to get you through the tryout process. Most people have had a lot of formation time. Of course there's a huge variance in numbers of hours."
Also flying at the airshows on Saturday and Sunday is a CF-18 Hornet.