Snowbirds weave aerial acrobatics
(Photos by Wade Paterson)
Kelowna’s downtown shores were a hub of activity Wednesday, as area residents and tourists alike sought the best spot to watch one of this country’s most beloved performances.
The Canadian Airforce’s iconic Snowbirds took flight over Okanagan Lake for the first time since 2012, wowing the crowds with signature manoeuvres at speeds of up to 400 knots only a metre from each other.
The synchronized loops and roles that make the performance so appealing require an inordinate amount of talent and nerves under the most mundane circumstances.
And local geography calls for even more skill, said Capt. Thomas Edelson. “There are a lot of unique things about Kelowna,” he said. “Besides the fact it’s an awesome place to come in the summer…the number of locations we fly over water is five or less.”
Looping around above the lake means fewer reference points for the pilots to keep on target.
“It’s also very warm here and it’s a little higher up,” he said. “The jet has a little less performance because the air is a bit thinner, so you need to anticipate where you will need power to stay in the formation.”
There’s also a bit of a speed bump as the air changes in the space where land meets water, below.
Lastly, the hills around the lake create a few more challenges.
“You can’t fly straight and level when you come out of the maneuvers,” he said, referring to the space as a “compressed show box.”
Despite those challenges, the Snowbird team pulled off their Okanagan showcase without a hitch.
“We’re excited to come back to Kelowna,” he said.
“We have a great time in the Okanagan, and we’re going to have a day off (today) to enjoy it.”