Snowbird Commander makes a stop in West Island

Lt. Col. Maryse Carmichael visits veterans and Aviation Heritage Centre

By Kevin Woodhouse

Any visitor at a well attended air show would be pleasantly surprised to have a five-foot radius of space for their picnic, refreshments and baby strollers around them as it would seem expansive in size. But a space of five feet is very small when you consider that is how close the Snowbirds’ wings get to each other during their complicated maneuvers. Last Wednesday, the 431 Squadron’s commanding officer of the iconic Canadian aerobatic demonstration team, Lt. Col. Maryse Carmichael, made a stop in the West Island to visit with veterans at the hospital and nearby legion as well as taking a guided tour of the Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre.

The Snowbirds are celebrating two milestone anniversaries this year. The first is the squadron’s 70th anniversary as the demonstration team was created in 1942 and served as a bomber squadron during WWll. The other special occasion is the 50th anniversary of the team’s plane; the Canadian built CT-114 Tudor.

Just prior to meeting with The Suburban at the centre, Lt. Col Carmichael had paid a visit to the Veterans Hospital where she had had an opportunity to speak to two members of the 431st who served as a pilot and wireless operator, the latter having being shot down twice during the war. The lieutenant-colonel was honoured to meet some of the founding members and “I was so moved by their skill and professionalism they demonstrated as members of the squadron and for us, in our current milieu, we honour them.”

From May through October every year, the Snowbirds put on 70 shows that take them across the country and beyond as they will be invited guests at an event in Texas. Throughout the rest of the year, they train twice a day, learning to fly within five feet of each other, starting with double and triple formations before moving up to all nine Snowbirds doing maneuvers.

When asked what was the best thing about her job, Carmichael said “it is definitely all about the kids and besides giving them a great show, we get a chance to hopefully inspire the next generation to be good citizens and work hard.”

And while the Snowbirds have included four stops in the province this summer, there are none planned for Montreal or the West Island. And while she could not officially confirm it, Commander Carmichael did tell The Suburban that the Snowbirds will be crossing over from Ontario towards Trois Rivières on June 6, and that West Island residents should look to the skies just after lunch tomorrow and perhaps get a chance to witness the Canadian legends in action.

Lt. Col. Maryse Carmichael (l), the commander of the Snowbirds, poses with Glen Beck, tour guide for the Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre, during her visit to the West Island last Wednesday where she also stopped in to visit military personnel at the Veterans’ Hospital before visiting the Ste. Anne’s Legion.

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