Snowbirds share in excitement of unique ‘Canadian moment’ ‘There’s something special today,’ pilot says of first experience

Posted by | July 29, 2009 | Appearances, milestones, news | No Comments

Photo: Janet Trost

Centennial Heritage Flight flypast over Parliament Hill.

By Kristy Nease, July 2, 2009
Reprinted from the Ottawa Citizen

A few hours after making fly-overs at Parliament Hill and the Canada Aviation Museum on Canada Day, 11 snowbird pilots strolled into the museum to greet more than 300 excited youngsters, aviation enthusiasts, and sightseeing families.

And with them was retired Col. Chris Hadfield, an astronaut with the Canada Space Agency, who flew the Hawk One – a fully refurbished RCAF F-86 Sabre 5 – with the Snowbirds to celebrate 100 years of Canadian aviation.

Snowbird Maj. Doug Clements, called his experience flying over the Peace Tower as “indescribable.”

“What a feeling,” Clements said. “… to be a part of it, it chokes you up.

“You fly over and see the people down there, you know they’re cheering; it’s quite a Canadian moment, that’s for sure. I don’t think there’s a bigger Canadian moment, really, for any pilot.”

Photo: Janet Trost

Chris Hadfield and Heather Hiscox, CBC News, during interview for the morning show on Parliament Hill, 1 July 2009.

Clements’ family watched the flights on television from Moosejaw, Sask., where the busy Snowbirds are based.

“There’s a real sense here – I mean, it’s my first year – but there’s something special today,” he said. “You can feel it.”

And Clements wasn’t the only pilot feeling the energy.

After signing hundreds of autographs and posing for countless photos, Hadfield wanted to get up close to a fighter jet he knew well: the CF-18 Hornet.

Photo: Janet Trost

Proud Canadian fans greet the aerial demonstrations teams (Snowbirds, CF-18 Century Hornet and Hawk One) at the Canada Aviation Museum, 1 July 2009, for an autograph session.

“Let’s see if we get in trouble,” he said. With precision, Hadfield snapped open a hidden ladder, which he then proceeded to climb – a probably highly unusual happening at the orderly museum.

“That’s how you get into a Hornet,” he said casually from the top of the steps.

Security staff at the museum noticed a strange pair of legs disappear from underneath the sleek fighter, and came to make sure their prized bird was alright.

“It’s not every day we let someone climb in,” said one, with a great big grin on his face, after shaking Hadfield’s hand. “But I think it’s OK.”

After snapping the ladder back in place and greeting excited staff, Hadfield said the first thing he thought about that morning was the weather.

“It’s one of those things where, almost, your emotions get trapped behind you because you’re busy. There’s a whole sequence of things you have to do right when you’re flying a jet, and you have to pay attention to what’s happening, especially when you’re in formation,” he said.

“You almost have to climb out under your own shoulder to have a look at what’s actually going on, and to realize just what a rare, and privileged, and, in this case, historic thing is going on.

“It’s a magnificent experience.”

Photo: Janet Trost

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