Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 05/26/2013 12:21 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 05/26/2013 9:02 PM | Updates
Three hundred metres in the air.
Six hundred kilometres per hour.
Just 1.2 metres of space between your jet’s nose and the tail of the jet in front of you.
That’s an average day at work for Capt. Gregg Wiebe, pilot of Snowbird 4 on the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Demonstration Team.
Wiebe, who grew up in Kenora, Ont., took to the skies north of Winnipeg with his teammates Saturday to impress and/or strike fear into some civilian passengers along for the ride.
The team is here on a stopover as it heads to Ontario to begin its regular air-show season. The Snowbirds will perform in Kenora July 3.
They’ll give Manitobans a sneak peek today, though, as they do flybys of The Forks, Oakbank, Birds Hill, Beausejour, Anola, Ste Anne, Steinbach, Morris, La Salle and Carman, starting at 2 p.m.
There is a little bit of magic in the Snowbirds’ show. But it’s not the patterns they make in the sky with their trailing smoke. It’s the illusion of danger.
"The word ‘dangerous’ doesn’t enter into our vocabulary," Wiebe said.
"Every manoeuvre we’re going to do, we put a risk factor on it. And if the risk factor becomes too great, then we don’t do that manoeuvre."
But if you’ve seen a Snowbirds show from the ground, you know that 1.2-metre gap between planes seems like only millimetres.
"Well, I guess it is a little bit like a trick."
There are no illusions about the effort Wiebe and his elite teammates put into training for up to 60 performances across North America they plan to put on this summer.
Each year, the team trains from November to May for at least three different routines tailor-made for a variety of weather conditions. Then, air-show season keeps them busy from May to October.
Wiebe, who started out as a helicopter pilot when he joined the Canadian Forces in 1982, first caught the flying bug watching float planes on Lake of the Woods as a child. Now he has logged 8,000 hours of military flying.
At age 51, Wiebe is the oldest member of the team and plans to retire soon. He’s been with the Snowbirds since 2004 and part of the show team for two years.
"This is a great way to finish it up — with one of the best flying jobs in the world."
Like every Snowbird pilot, Wiebe has a call sign bestowed upon him by the team: Abe.
He likes to think it represents Abraham Lincoln. But the inspiration is actually Abe Simpson — Homer Simpson’s elderly father.
If you see the Snowbirds up in the sky today, be sure to wave to Abe. He’ll be the one in the middle of the diamond formation — the one with a plane just 1.2 metres in front of his nose.
Mobile users: If you can't see the photo slideshow below, click here.
Winnipeg Free Press Multimedia Editor Melissa Tait got a chance to ride shotgun with the Canadian Forces' Snowbirds on Saturday, May 25.
Updated on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 9:02 PM CDT: corrects date of Kenora show
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Property tax increase capped, but frontage levies, garbage fees to increase
The Hockey News proclaims Jets '2019 Stanley Cup champions' in annual Future Watch issue
Property tax or not a property tax — that is the question
72 passengers reach settlements in Asiana crash
No selfie sticks, museum says
RCMP lay charges against man in Beausejour store attack
Project Distress target pleads guilty to drug charges
Bird counts still being tallied, but number of birders up in Great Backyard Count
TSN apologizes for offensive Phaneuf tweet
Flu ravaging nursing homes
Roseau River teen's death a homicide, RCMP say
Windsor cops probe secret online sex shows
Neepawa blaze proves costly: $3M
Manitoba moves into tie for third at Brier
Pair pleads 'drunken stupidity'
Bombers sign Millington, Pierre
Stempniak surprised, but excited to join Jets
Two legends, one team being inducted into Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame
Levin pleads guilty to child porn charges
Cost of Neepawa blaze pegged at $3M
Forgiving the unthinkable
Ex-CIA chief admits sharing military secrets with mistress
Ready, set, go
Feds quietly canvass provinces for GHG action
Housing affordability in Manitoba improving: report
Great-West acquires U.K.'s Equitable Life Assurance Society
Chill sets in over anti-terror laws
Netanyahu warns US 'bad deal' would put Iran on nuclear path
NHL trade deadline winners and losers
Book of Mormon to hold pre-show lotteries
Shiny new tech can't distract from CSI spinoff's deficiencies
It's not us, it's them, think-tank says
Prejudice in the court
Support flows for attacked couple
Cold today and tonight, but warmer weather on the way
Jordan, other NBA owners join Forbes' billionaire list
March to be colder than normal: forecast
India orders TV stations not to give rapist a platform
Hungary makes nuclear deal with Russia a 30-year secret
Nigel Wright called to testify at Duffy trial