The sight of birds flying delicately through the skies of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada is not an unusual sight. The Snowbirds, officially known as the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, are not what you would expect from a military air squadron. Their aerial acrobatics and artful flight are recognizable around the world.
Originally formed in 1942 England as bomber squadron for WWII, the team was a valuable group for the Allies. Their battle honors include Normandy in 1944, the Baltic in 1943-44, and the English Channel in 1943-44. The squadron would move to Nova Scotia and be disbanded after the war was over in 1945.
The legendary team was named the “Snowbirds” through a contest held at the Base Elementary School and received their first performance under their new name at the 1971 Saskatchewan Homecoming Airshow. They would go on to perform 27 times in their first year. Their first public performance was held in Yellowknife in 1972.
The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary signaled a new chapter for the Snowbirds. They were part of the opening ceremonies and incorporated colored smoke into their amazing acrobatic to represent the Olympic rings. It was such a spectacular sight that the Snowbirds began to use red colored smoke into their performances in 1990. Their premier world performance outside of Canada came in 1993 at the Zapopan Military Air Base outside of Guadalajara, Mexico.
These movements are breathtaking demonstrations of precision and pure skill. These shows are a lot like synchronized swimming in mid air. The planes complete beautiful formations and tricks in close proximity at high speeds (around 1100km/h). Each plane along with the 24 members of the show team and 80 Canadian Forces members have to work together in perfect harmony to pull it off. Mistakes in this business can be deadly. In fact, the group has suffered some terrifying loses and close calls throughout the year.
These stunning red and white planes have now performed more than 2 000 shows and are still thrilling for old and young alike today. If you would like to see the team in action, there are a selection of videos and photos on their website.
(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/snowbirds/)