Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 50 years of tradition
Fifty years ago, on July 11, Canada's newest airshow team took to the air for their first major airshow at CFB Moose Jaw.
Following in the footsteps of such eminent predecessors as the
RCAF Siskins, RCN Grey Ghosts, RCAF Golden Hawks and Canadian Armed
Forces Golden Centennaires, the newly named "Snowbirds" were destined to
become Canadian icons with millions of fans across North America. The
team adopted its name on June 25, 1971 following a "name the team"
competition at the base elementary school. We now know that two young
students both independently chose the name "Snowbirds" - Douglas Farmer
and Cathy Tiller.
The "Saskatchewan Homecoming Air Show" that
day was billed as the largest single day airshow in North America that
year - and so it was. A total of 52 Canadian Forces aircraft
participated in the show supported by 65 technicians with another 15
aircraft from the USAF on display. Also performing were some of the top
civilian acts in North America who became good friends with the team -
Art Scholl, Al Pietsch, Joe Hughes and his wing-walker Johnny Kazian to
name a few. A torrential downpour the evening before the show reduced
parking spots to the extent that while 45,000 folks made it onto the
base that day, another estimated 40,000 did not, being stuck in a
traffic jam that stretched 16 miles back through Moose Jaw and down the
highway towards Regina when the show started at 1:00 PM.
Major Glen Younghusband, the team's performance that day was the first
major airshow performance of approximately 2,700 official airshows the
team has now flown over the last 50 years across North America. Hundreds
of more flypasts have also been flown, including those flown last year
and this year under "Operation Inspiration." And proudly watching from
the ground that day was the team's founder, CFB Moose Jaw Base Commander
Colonel O.B. Philp, along with the Commander of Training Command,
Major-General Bill Carr, who opened the show followed by a flypast of a
combined eight-ship of CF-104s and CF-5s from Cold Lake.
toast today to OB Philp and his vision, the 11 volunteer instructors who
flew on the team that first season and the group of BAMEO technicians
who supported them during their workups in Moose Jaw. They paved the way
for all of the teams who have followed.
Major Glen Younghusband
Capt Gord Wallis
Capt Fred McCague
Capt Chester Glendenning
Capt Laurie Illingworth
Capt George Hawey
Capt Mike Marynowski
Capt Lloyd Waterer
Capt Tom Gernack
Capt Bob Sharpe
Capt Doug Zebedee
1971 Groundcrew Volunteers
Sgt Dick Gaff
Sgt Lorne Foster
Cpl Don Anderson
Cpl Wayne Adams
Cpl Al McFadden
Cpl Ed Torfason
Cpl Bob Nixon
Cpl Mike Thompson
As we salute the 1971 team, we extend our congratulations
and best wishes to the 2021 Snowbirds who are carrying on the tradition
under the challenging COVID restrictions of this summer.
Notwithstanding, one only needs to follow social media posts to see how
excited Canadians are to see the team back in the air again.
Sic Itur ad Astra
- - - - -
Dan Dempsey watched his first airshow as a youngster at RCAF
Station Rockcliffe in Ottawa in 1959. From that early exposure grew a
passion for flying and airshows that led to a 23 year military career
with the Canadian Forces. A graduate of Royal Roads Military College and
the Royal Military College of Canada, his military career included
tours as a jet instructor, demonstration pilot with Canada’s Snowbirds
nine-plane aerobatic team, fighter pilot on the CF-104 Starfighter based
in Baden-Soellingen, West Germany and executive assistant to the
Commander Air Command. It was during his second tour as commanding
officer of the Snowbirds in 1989 and 1990 that he led the team through
their 20th anniversary and 1,000th official performance. For his
contribution to aviation in Canada, he was named to the Maclean’s
magazine annual Honour Roll in December 1990.
Dan Dempsey - Hawk One PilotDan retired from the Canadian
Forces in 1993. Dan is now employed as a pilot by Top Aces Inc, a
subsidiary of Discovery Air, which provides dedicated combat support
training to the Canadian Forces. He was also honoured to join the
Centennial Heritage Flight in 2009, one of five pilots who flew Hawk
One, the classic F-86 Sabre in Golden Hawk colours, across Canada in
celebration of the nation's 100th anniversary of powered flight.
Source: Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Dan Dempsey, CD – Guest Contributor - News Article / August 6, 2021
Photo: RCAF Snowbirds - The logo celebrating the Snowbirds’ 50th season.
- An image of the program from the
1971 Saskatchewan Homecoming Air Show
- Scenes from the sky...the Snowbirds in flight during their first airshow in 1971. (Photo by gracieuseté de Dan Dempsey - Royal Canadian Air Force -www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca)