Coronavirus: Grounded CAF Snowbirds participate in virtual airshow

LiveAirShowTV is streaming the Socially Distant Air Show online from April 21 to 23.
LiveAirShowTV is streaming the Socially Distant Air Show online from April 21 to 23. Merlyn Guilderson / File

COVID-19 has grounded the performance fleet at 15 Wing Moose Jaw in what was supposed to be a milestone season for the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds.

Now, the pilots are looking for new ways to showcase their talents during their 50th season.

“One of the ways that we’re able to display the skills, professionalism and work of the men and women of the Canadian Forces is mainly through airshows and travelling over the summer,” said team lead Jean-Francois Dupont.

Since that’s not possible, the Snowbirds are doing it virtually instead.

The Socially Distant Air Show will stream military and civilian performers online. It’s a fundraiser for the International Council of Air Shows Foundation with all proceeds going to its members affected by Coronavirus.

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READ MORE: Canadian Snowbirds pilot unhurt after ejecting from aircraft at Atlanta airshow

“It may only take 15 to 30 minutes of our time to give back to the community and we’re super happy to do that,” Dupont said.

While the Snowbirds won’t actually be in the air for the show, they will showcase footage from training exercises and last year’s performances to give a “pilot’s perspective” on the maneuvers.

“We explain what we’re doing and how we’re doing it just to have a different view, instead of just sitting there and watching what we’re doing,” Dupont said.

Dupont, who loved going to airshows as a kid, said the online version is a great way to boost morale, but it doesn’t compare to the real in-person experience.

“There’s something different about actually being there and hearing the sounds, seeing the people [and] talking to the pilots,” Dupont said.

But, because of social distancing, online airshows might be the way of the future, at least for this season.

The Snowbirds typically perform roughly 60 shows in 30 to 40 different cities each year.

Many of those shows have been cancelled or delayed, according to Dupont. The Snowbirds have a tentative appearance set for the end of June, but it’s still up in the air.

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“Because there are so many unknowns, we still have some training to do to be able to do a safe and good airshow,” Dupont said. “Everything will be based on when we start flying again. The longer we wait, the longer it will take for us to be ready.”

READ MORE: Snowbirds team returning to Canada after crash in U.S.

The uncertainty has not only put the pilots out of practice, it’s also thrown a wrench into the Snowbirds 50th season.

“I won’t lie, it’s a little disappointing,” Dupont said, adding they are ready to celebrate the season if COVID-19 allows.

“We might still carry on with our season. If not, the 50th season will be next year. We don’t know yet.”

Keeping things in perspective, Dupont said he feels lucky to still have a job doing something he loves in the middle of a pandemic when so many others have been laid off.

LiveAirShowTV is streaming the Socially Distant Air Show online from April 21 to 23.

Kenney issues special warning to snowbirds returning from U.S. to self-isolate
Kenney issues special warning to snowbirds returning from U.S. to self-isolate

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.