Skip to comments.Reducing Snowbirds Team not an Option, (Canadian) Air Force Says
Posted on 08/31/2006 6:59:29 AM PDT by NorthOf45
Reducing Snowbirds team not an option, air force says
Plan to replace planes with CF-18s also rejected
By David Pugliese
August 31, 2006
Canada's air force has rejected the option to substantially reduce the size of its Snowbirds team, as well as substitute CF-18 fighter jets for the aerobatic formation's aging Tutor aircraft.
But the military still hasn't settled on how it plans to keep the famous aerial demonstration unit operating well into the future.
A briefing note, dated April 25, 2006, to air force commander Lt.-Gen. Steve Lucas, as well as a report on the future options for the Snowbirds, outline the problems the service is facing with the 40-year-old Tutor aircraft the team now flies.
"Due to obsolescence issues, in the 2010 time frame, the Tutor will no longer be a viable aircraft for the Snowbirds," the documents, obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information Act, conclude.
The air force is examining various options, including leasing or buying new aircraft for the Snowbirds and reducing the size from the current nine-plane formation to seven planes.
But it drew the line at cutting the formation back to four aircraft and substituting the high-speed CF-18 aircraft for the Tutors.
"A four aircraft team would have very little flexibility in display manoeuvres and therefore in entertainment value," the documents said.
"Four aircraft, regardless of type, would have a harmful effect to the Snowbirds' image."
Using CF-18s would increase the ability of the team to perform around the world but reduce their availability for smaller venues in Canada which have runways too short to accommodate the jets.
In addition, the CF-18s would be 20 times more expensive to operate than the Tutors.
The documents noted that the U.S. navy's Blue Angels aerial demonstration team uses six F-18s in their show but the higher speeds, fewer jets and larger turning radius for the aircraft mean the "show has much less time in front of the crowds than the Snowbirds."
Only Israel and Finland have show team sizes of four aircraft.
All other countries operate teams with sizes ranging from six to 10 planes.
Air force spokesman Capt. Jim Hutcheson said no decision has been made on the future structure of the Snowbirds.
"Ultimately there is recognition that we have to support the Snowbirds," he said.
"A range of options is still being looked at."
Capt. Hutcheson noted that "the current situation for the Tutor is stable."
A study determined the Snowbirds Tutor has sufficient life to continue to the 2020 time frame. To do that would require upgrades to the aircraft's avionics.
Capt. Hutcheson said there is no imminent decision to change the current situation with the Snowbirds.
The air force is in the midst of acquiring new helicopters, long-range strategic transport planes and a replacement for its aging Hercules transport fleet in a series of contracts worth billions of dollars.
The Snowbirds project "is not receiving the heat and light that many of the other projects are receiving," Capt. Hutcheson said.
The documents indicate that if the Snowbirds switched to more modern aircraft, the team could use a smaller formation of seven aircraft and still perform their various manoeuvres.
The reduction in team size would be offset by higher noise level and more modern design of new aircraft, according to the air force records.
It could also keep the status quo and continue to use the Tutors.
The advantages being that the team is well received in the U.S. and Canada, has an established legacy, and sufficient aircraft to fly until 2020.
The disadvantage of the status quo, according to the records, is that it requires about 100 personnel for the team, the aircraft are old, there are limited spare parts and an increased risk of unexpected aircraft problems.
Some officers see the Snowbirds as vital to the Canadian military's public image.
Others, however, question spending money on the team since it does not directly contribute combat capabilities to the air force.
This is a plane:
And Canada could acquire them with a little effort and diplomacy.
Thanks for the insight. I'm aware to a degree of what the libs did to our military back then ... it was before my time. I must admit that I didn't even know the Golden Hawks existed. Wow, the liberal haze is thick. Thanks again for the photos and history.
Yes, I trust that we'll get our hands on some of these.
Maybe then, they'll provide an updated (military) airframe for the Snowbirds. I can't see them changing the name Snowturds though. ; )