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Snowbirds, CF-18 Demo Team wrap up spring training

By Joe Letourneau | May 27, 2024

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 23 seconds.

Spring training for the 2024 airshow season has concluded for both the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and CF-18 Demonstration Team, and they are now on to celebrating the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) 100th anniversary in Canada and internationally.

The CF Snowbirds in Comox, B.C. Joe Letourneau Photo

Held every spring at 19 Wing Comox, B.C., this training sees the Snowbirds migrate from their home base in Moose Jaw, Sask., to scenic CFB Comox, overlooking the Strait of Georgia towards mainland British Columbia. Comox offers a unique site where overland, water, and remote air start shows can be rehearsed in generally nice weather with minimal disruption to other air traffic.

With three weeks of intensive training (usually two of the three assigned), time slots called “waves” are used daily to prepare the Snowbirds for the intensive airshow season ahead. Training culminates in an “Acceptance Show,” where the commanders of 1 and 2 Canadian Air Divisions for both the Snowbirds and CF-18 Demo Team review and approve the shows for public display.

The 2024 CF-18 Demo Hornet. Joe Letourneau Photo

The 2024 Snowbirds tour spans the country, with a few stops south of the border, and ends in El Paso, Texas, this October. One of many highlights worth marking on the calendar is EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, as both the Snowbirds and CF-18 Demo are set to perform on one of the aviation industry’s biggest stages.

The CF-18 tour largely follows the Snowbirds’ display locations, except for one major diversion to the United Kingdom and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford. The team last flew RIAT in 2018, celebrating NATO’s 75th anniversary.

Happening the same weekend as RIAT is the annual Cold Lake Air Show in Alberta. So, a standard tactical grey Hornet will be displayed at the Cold Lake Air Show, while the colourful Demo jet will be in the U.K. The 2023 CF-18 Demo pilot, Capt Jesse “Modem” Smith, will conduct the Cold Lake display.

This year’s CF-18 Demo pilot, Capt Caleb “Tango” Robert, hails from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and has been involved in aviation from an early age through the RCAF Cadet program. Through the cadet program, Robert received both his glider and private pilot licenses. This year, Robert’s helmet received a custom paint job by artist David Arrigo who, among other commissions, paints helmets for NHL players.

The “RCAF 100” livery on the 2024 Demo Hornet is spectacular. It was inspired by a contest run internally by the Canadian Forces. MCpl Kevin Kelly’s design was selected, and painting was conducted at 1 Air Maintenance Squadron, 4 Wing, CFB Cold Lake. The paint scheme represents four main themes: Innovation and Technology, People of the RCAF, Air Power, and Heritage & History. By far the most complicated aspect of the paint scheme was the RCAF tartan applied in the usual false canopy location.

The most complicated aspect of the 2024 Demo Hornet paint scheme was the RCAF tartan applied in the usual false canopy location. Joe Letourneau Photo

This year’s air display season is shaping up to be a memorable one, with international teams coming to Canada to celebrate RCAF 100. The Italian display team Frecce Tricolori has several Canadian stops and flyovers scheduled as part of its North American tour; the RAF Red Arrows out of the U.K. will cross the Atlantic in August for a month-long Eastern Canada tour; the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are set to fly at the Aero Gatineau-Ottawa airshow; and the RAF Typhoon Display Team is coming for a single-stop appearance at the SAIB airshow in Bagotville, Que.

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