About eight years ago or so, the telephone rang. It was the editor of the local newspaper, the Powell River Peak, and she wanted to know if I was interested in doing something a little on the special side. She wanted to know if I wanted to go up with the Snowbirds. And if I did, I should get on the next ferry and get to Comox BC, where the Snowbirds train every spring before going on tour, an hour and a half away.
You don’t say no to something like this.
I got to the airforce base at Comox in the evening and a bunch of enlisted people took me out for dinner and showed me my room at the base. And bright and early the next morning, myself and a bunch of media people from Victoria and Nanaimo found ourselves in a room with a couple of Snowbirds pilots getting briefed on what to expect when we were actually doing it.
We were then assigned to a pilot and aircraft, and I was given aircraft number nine and pilot Robert Reichert, who was as friendly as can be. Robert flew the right flank and was one of two soloists, and he and his technician Marc Elder helped me on with my flight equipment, showed me where the barf bags were located, and explained how to eject if necessary. Shortly after, with the techicians in their uniforms impressively directing us, all nine of us taxied down the runway. Then, as mind-blowing as can be, we all took off in perfect formation at the same time, as Snowbirds do, (they also land in unison) and before I knew it, I’m up in the sky in a Snowbird jet.
I asked Robert if we could go upside down and he radioed the squadron leader. “Passenger requests an inversion,” he said, and the answer came back affirmative. “Here we go” he said, and plop, we were upside down. There are also two steering sticks in these aircraft, and after straightening out, Robert said, “See that fishing boat down there? Take the stick and take us down so we can get a better look.” So I did, and just like that, I was actually taking number nine Snowbird down myself to get a closer look at a fishing boat. Holy smokes!
And often, we would be flying in unison with the others and the leader would bark some mumbo jumbo through the radio and all nine planes would immediately shoot straight up with G force. This is when most civilians puke. But I didn’t, and I’m very proud of that. I didn’t need the barf bags even once.