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This article was published 7/8/2018 (658 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA – The military spent roughly $70,000 to fly two jets over a Winnipeg Jets Whiteout street party this spring, according to internal documents. The Royal Canadian Air Force says it uses such festivities to help its pilots attain their required flying hours.
On May 1, two CF-18 Hornet fighter jets flew over the Manitoba capital during that evening’s outdoors party celebrating the Jets’ NHL playoff run.
The Free Press obtained daily aircraft-maintenance reports, showing the two planes accrued a combined 8.1 hours of flight time for the flyby. The jets cost $8,700 per flying hour in "variable costs," such as fuel and maintenance -- similar to how companies reimburse employees’ mileage.
The military confirmed that means the flyover cost roughly $70,470, while two pilots each claimed $82.75 in meals and incidental expenses.
David Lavallee, a RCAF spokesman in Winnipeg, said the force gets hundreds of requests; in this case, the Winnipeg NHL franchise had asked.
"We get requests for these types of flybys all across the country, all the time, for all kinds of organizations – and we do them all the time," he said.
He said a special events unit at 1 Canadian Air Division considers the requests based on the RCAF resources, whether it's appropriate to support the event, and what aircraft might be best.
Lavallee said RCAF assigns staff and planes based on each fleet’s number of required flying hours.
"It's basically training. Pilots and aircrew have to spend a certain amount of time flying their aircraft, in order to maintain their qualifications," he said, adding requested flyovers tend to occur weekly.
Ever wondered what a @nhljets flypast looks like from the cockpit? Check out the view from the four-ship of 15 Wing CT-155 Hawks that flew the flypast over the #WPGWhiteout yesterday. Looks like the pilot had a fave team! #RCAF pic.twitter.com/fDvahtjHg5— RCAF (@RCAF_ARC) May 13, 2018
"The bottom line is: we’re drawing on already existing hours which are going to be flown anyway."
When factoring in total costs – such as salaries and the actual purchase of those jets – the total use of those two jets would amount to $486,405. But budget watchdogs tend not to include those expenses when tallying the cost of military operations – whether they’re one-day flybys or months-long missions – because the military would bear those costs, even if those jets sat unused.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jets logo harkens to the RCAF history in the city, but Lavallee said the NHL team’s ties to the air force did not influence the decision to proceed with the flyby.
"We call ourselves the home of the RCAF," he admitted, but said "the Jets aren’t getting any special consideration here because of their linkages to us."
He insisted the Ottawa Senators -- and even the Toronto Maple Leafs -- have their requests vetted through the same process.