Yellow Drum Productions: Blog en-us (C) Mike Luedey - Yellow Drum Productions (Yellow Drum Productions) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:59:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:59:00 GMT Yellow Drum Productions: Blog 120 90 The 2016 Cold Lake Airshow

On July 13th I made my first ever trip to 4 Wing Cold Lake to shoot the Cold Lake Airshow as one of their official photographers. As a young Cadet, I had spent many summers attending camp at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec. There was no place I'd rather spend two to six weeks of my summer than marching around the base and shining my boots along the fence line each evening as the CF-18's worked the pattern with the odd CF-5 and CT-133 mixed in (dating myself). As awesome as that was, I knew that in Cold Lake I'd see even more of the CF-18 and the CT-155 Hawk. When I arrived, I pulled over near the main entrance to make a quick call and wondered how long it would be before I starting seeing Hornet's. To my surprise, the first thing I saw was a CH-146 Griffon hauling a small car around the airfield, how's that for a different first impression?! 

Harmon F-1 Rocket - Capt Erick "Hõm" O'Connor

I met with 4 Wing Public Affairs Officer, Captain Mathew Strong and got squared away with my little home away from home in the PMQ's. With beautiful evening light outside, I made a quick trip to Cold Lake Regional Airport to meet up with the airshow Boss, Captain Erick O'Connor at his hangar to get warmed up with some photos of his Harmon F-1 Rocket. This was the first time I'd been able to workout my new Nikon D500 paired with my 80-400 lens. The results weren't bad but when I got home from Cold Lake I sent the lens back to Nikon Canada and that's a different story for a different day. 

I took the ATV, chased him out to the runway and did a little work tracking him around the sky above the airfield. We got in a few terrific low passes before setting down and taking it back to the hangar for some shots with the lowering sun in the background. A drink at the new hangar bar and planning for the next day closed out the evening.

Thursday was spent trying to get a good grasp on where I'd be able to shoot from and really just getting to know the base and ramp area. Capt Strong gave me a tour of the base and we visited the tower so I'd be introduced to the controllers and go over where I'd be shooting from relative to the still active parts of the base.  Overhead view of 4 Wing Cold Lake

I was asked to jump on a Griffon helicopter to get some good overhead images of the base that they may want to use in the pilot briefing. I really
haven't done much flying in helicopters but was anxious to fly with 417 Squadron for the first time. I was given a seat by the open door so I'd be able to get an unobstructed view with my camera. I honestly can't remember how long we were up there but it was probably close to an hour. We saw a few of the performers arriving while we loitered at 6,000 feet just to the south of the base. I'd spent over a week in Comox, BC in April but wasn't able to get a single shot of the specially painted CF-18 demo jet because it was sent back to Cold Lake for paint repairs the day after I arrived. I knew I'd get a chance to see it during the show but didn't imagine my first glimpse of it would be on short final from the open door of a Griffon helicopter. Didn't make for a great shot but it was still a unique perspective.

I spent the rest of the day standing out near the windsock at the taxiway intersection to capture as many of the arriving fly-by's and rolling shots as I could. Probably the most anticipated arrival was that of the B-52 Stratofortress out of Barksdale, Louisiana. Word was that they'd be doing a fly-by before landing. I could hear the inbound announcement come over the PA and not long after, people started lining the balcony's for a glimpse. The B-52 came out of the downwind with it's gear down and what they'd see was in fact NOT a fly-by, but rather a touch and go! It doesn't take a nose up attitude when it rotates, it just sort of levitates at level attitude as it rumbles down the runway. I think that was the first time I've really seen the gear retract up close. Marvelous stuff! 

Friday's practice day was highlighted by an incredible display of metal with four CT-155 Hawk's and TEN CF-18 Hornet's combining for a taxi that was more like an epic parade of thrust. The Hawk The "Elephant Walk" group had left from their hangar behind my position but all ten Hornet's came by in pairs as they headed out. The sound was incredible and man was it warm! The entire group took off in pairs. I wasn't able to get many photos with the amount of heat distortion but it was awesome to just sit and watch. Hõm had asked me to position myself down along the taxi-way so I could try and capture all fourteen aircraft from a head-on perspective. I was escorted by 401 Squadron Aviation Technician, MCpl Frank Cyr ("Frank-1"). when they had exited the runway and formed up for the "elephant walk" I moved into position on the center-line. Once they came into clear view I fired away while Frank kept an eye on their distance so I'd know when to safely get out of the way. I've never seen anything like this before. I noticed a couple of familiar faces as both Capt Denis "Cheech" Beaulieu and Capt Adam "Manik" Runge went by. There was also a unique opportunity to capture Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hanson who was piloting one of the CF-18's. Definitely an experience I'll never forget. To someone like Frank, this is more ordinary and according to him, something he probably takes a little for granted. Not the case for me at all. Snapping away on the shutter and trying to take it all in made for quite a moment. I never get tired of watching the Snowbirds taxi by, trying to nail the perfect shot of each pilot but I suspect the only way I'm going to see anything like what I saw this day is in a place like Cold Lake or Bagotville. 

The weekend was greeted with a picture perfect Saturday morning. I arrived pretty early so I could make my way around the static line and ramp area for some early light (un-obstructed) photography. When the gates opened, it wasn't long before the grass and static areas filled with spectators. Static 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron's colour bird. displays covered a wide variety of aircraft and gave people a chance to visit each of the squadrons as they made their way from one end to the other. From memory, I think every squadron had its colour bird on display. I rarely (if ever) get to see those back home so this was something I really enjoyed. Starting from one end of the show area, you could visit the CC-150 Polaris and check out some of the aircraft from the Aeronautical Engineering Testing Establishment (AETE). Next, the CH-149 Cormorant, CH-124 Sea King and CH-146 Griffon. Further down there were a pair of A-10's from Kansas City, two F-16 Aggressor's out of Alaska, one piloted by RCAF Capt Mike "Shrek" Walker, who's currently on exchange with the USAF. Some of the other heavy aircraft on display included the CP-140 Aurora from 19 Wing, Comox, a C-17 from 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario and the beastly B-52 Stratofortress from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. There was no shortage of vendors and informational displays from squadrons and several other organizations of interest. There was even a CF-18 pull! I may have purchased a couple of shirts to make up for the lack of clean clothes I had left from this trip and I came away with one beautiful coin from 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron.

I think my favorite of all the displays had to be the simulated loading of a CF-18. Around the jet were the various types of armament it carries, including the M161A Vulcan Gatling-style rotary canon on a stand for people to have a close look at. The crew shouted out commands and demonstrated CF-18 loading demonstration the loading procedure for a variety of both air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons. I feel pretty confident in saying that (in Canada) you're only going to see such a display at either Cold Lake or Bagotville. There was a large crowd gathered around the ropes watching and chatting with the other weapons techs. Meanwhile out on the airfield, a 417 Squadron CH-146 Griffon was hauling "someone's" car away and may have accidentally dropped it. Sound familiar? 

Flying displays included our amazing Canadian Forces Skyhawks, a variety of aircraft and flying styles, ranging from RC aircraft, warbirds, aerobatics, fast cars, fast jets and of course, the formation precision by the Snowbirds. Of particular interest to me was the T-33, "Ace Maker II", owned and operated by Gregory W Colyer. He puts on an awesome show with a little of everything the jet is capable of delivering at the hands of a skilled pilot. The interesting bit is the aircraft itself. It was the last T-33 retired by the RCAF and served at 4 Wing Cold Lake. In fact, when Colyer bought it, it was painted in the red, black and white colours of the Aeronautical Engineering Testing Establishment (AETE). The aircraft had finally made its way home for a reunion of sorts with some of the people who both flew it and maintained it before it was taken off strength. The combination of the jets good looks and the beautiful demo flown by Gregory W Colyer make for a photographers dream. The Smoke-n-Thunder's jet car, driven/piloted by Bill Braack thundered by the crowd and then took on the T-33 in a drag race. That jet car sounds insane!

This was the first time I'd seen Melissa Andrzejewski perform and she flew a great show in her Edge 540. The performance included a double ribbon cut and then she got into the act with Kent Pietsch in the Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet and the "Chuck Dramamine" routine...still one of my favorites. Kent came back later in the show for both his famous landing on the world's shortest runway and a beautiful display of aerobatic flying (and landing) with the engine off. Proof positive that you don't need a big money airplane to have fun! 

Canadian content provided by the RCAF included the CF-18 Demo, masterfully flown by Capt Ryan "Roid" Kean. The beautifully painted Hornet honors Canada's Capt Ryan "Roid" Kean in the CF-18 Demo jet contribution to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It's said to be the swan song of long time artist Jim Beliveau, the man responsible for some twenty-five demo jets! Word is he intends to retire after this year but insists that the artistry by the talented team at 4 Wing will go on in his absence. Roid's demo showcased the awesome agility of the CF-18 and included two of my favorites, the square loop and the awesome minimum radius turn. I still think Canada has the best Hornet demo!

Speaking of specially painted aircraft, the yellow CT-156 Harvard II in vintage Harvard markings and the CT-155 Hawk painted as a tribute to 419 Squadron's 75th anniversary and the Moosemen (more here) were both in attendance and would join the CF-18 for a special 75th Anniversary formation which included a few beautiful photo passes.

The other jet demo came courtesy of the United States Air Force and the F-16 Viper Demo Team. Piloted by Major Craig "Rocket" Baker, the F-16 put on a phenomenal display that started with a left break just after the gear came up on takeoff and included a number of powerful passes highlighted by the maneuverability that the F-16 is famous for. I hadn't seen the Viper demo in about four years and that was four years too long. 

So how about that Mass Attack?! Crowds gathered at the fence line to watch a seemingly endless group of Hawk's and Hornet's take off two at a time but one pair of Hornet's launched individually into unrestricted climbs. Before you know it, the first of the Hawk's begin to converge on the base, followed by a pair of Hornet's from a different direction, all the while AV8FX pyro explodes on the field to jack up the look and feel of the display. After all the groups had concluded their passes, they formed up into two groups for an amazing formation pass, led off by four Hawk's and then followed up with eight CF-18's!

The Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds The finale belonged to the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds with their precision formation aerobatics and solo routines. Probably one of the more impressive things in a Snowbird performance is how they're always in view and are able to pull the different elements back together into seven and nine plane formations so smoothly. From the ground, the teams coordinators work as both safety pilot and announcer while keeping track of the music that's playing during the show. All of this, combined with an incredible support team of technicians and their Public Affairs Officer and you get a performance worthy of highlighting any airshow.  

It was an honor to be asked to participate in the 2016 Cold Lake Airshow as one of their official photographers. My most sincere thanks and gratitude to Captain Erick "Hõm" O'Connor for extending the invitation and hospitality while giving me a chance to get up close and personal with the show and the incredible people at 4 Wing. I'd also like to thank 4 Wing Public Affairs Officer, Captain Mathew Strong for all of his assistance, patience and hospitality and MCpl Frank Cyr for an entertaining Friday on the field.


The Cold Lake Airshow is a two-day event. Just about everything you've read here occurred on Saturday. There's no need to detail the events of Sunday afternoon, there's only the need to express how inspiring it is to see people come together under terrible circumstances to comfort one another and turn a time of understandable sadness into a great celebration of life for a dear friend. The number of people, stories and sentiments both during the closing hours in Cold Lake and just last week in Calgary are what I'd consider a true measure of the man. Our friend, Bruce Evans.

Bruce Evans and his T-28 Trojan





]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) 3 4 Ace-Maker Airshow CF-18 Canadian Cold Demo F-16 Forces Harvard Lake Snowbirds T-33 Viper Wing Fri, 05 Aug 2016 05:41:00 GMT
Flying With the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds

A first-timers account of the high-show


I’ve seen the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds perform countless times and like so many others, wondered what it’s like to be on the other end of the show, strapped into one of those nine CT-114 Tutor jets. Over the years, as I became more involved with formation flying through great friendships with local warbird pilots, I began to see my appreciation and respect for this special skill really develop. I started to pay much closer attention to details like formation changes, spacing, rejoins and of course, the briefings. If you’ve ever watched the Snowbirds, you’ll notice that none of the aircraft ever really leave the area during the performance. This is why above everything else, I really wondered how a nine jet team was able to break off into various groups for the solos, three to seven plane formations and maneuvers before pulling them all back together at different times during the performance. In April of this year, I was able to see it first-hand and I wanted to try and give a first-timers account of the complete experience.

I was into an eight day visit to Comox, BC to photograph the team during their spring training deployment in April when I was presented with the incredible opportunity to go flying with them. I didn’t know exactly what day at first, or if it was going to even happen on this trip, but there were a few things I’d need to do before it could happen. 


The Medical – Making sure a passenger is fit enough to ride is a top requirement. Weight is a factor and not only from a heavy perspective, you can also be too light. The “nude” weight requirement is said to be between 130-209 lbs. I’m not sure if there’s a height requirement but I imagine if you’re shorter than Snowbird 2, Captain Ave Pyne then you’re good to go. The medical requirement covers a variety of things such as general health (blood pressure, etc), being deemed fit to fly in the jets under varying amounts of G and the ability to safely operate the Tutor’s ejection seat. I was signed off by a doctor at the 19 Wing base hospital but in some cases, the teams doctor may be present when the team is performing at a show where media flights are scheduled to occur.

The Seat Check – Inside the teams Mobile Support Vehicle (MSV) you’ll find a huge inventory of materials used to help maintain the jets while the team travels from show to show. You’ll also find a pair of Tutor seats that are sometimes just sitting outside the trailer. They aren’t spares for the aircraft; they’re training aids that are used to “check-out” passengers in the use of the seat and equipment that will be used during the flight. I met Corporal Jonathan Girard at the MSV on Wednesday morning and was fitted for a flight suit, parachute and since we’d be flying over the water, an LPSV (Life Preserver Survival Vest). Once suited up, I was shown how to latch myself and my chute into the seat with instructions on connecting the oxygen mask I’d be wearing.

Corporal Girard running a seat-check with a pair of passengers The second part of your training is the “toes to nose” checklist. Quickly start from your feet, moving up to check that pockets along your legs are closed so as not to get snagged when you eject. Then move to your mid-section on the way up to check that your chute buckle is set to “Lock” and finally, your helmet to check your mask and lower both your clear and tinted face shields. We then went over the different ways you may have to exit the aircraft in emergency situations, both in the air with the ejection seat and on the ground where you’ll need to quickly undo your harnesses, slip out of the chute from your seat and get out of the aircraft as soon as you can. There’s no graceful way to haul-ass out of a Tutor cockpit but I guess that’s partly where the fitness requirement comes into play. Lastly, Corporal Girard fitted me with a helmet, oxygen mask (I have a medium face, apparently) and gloves. Seat-check complete!

Snowbird #5 - Captain Matthew Hart I found out on Saturday evening over dinner that I’d be flying the next morning and requested the #5 jet with Second Line Astern (StemCat) pilot, Captain Matthew Hart. The weather was a bit of a concern at the time so there wasn’t word as to whether it’d be a low/flat show or the high show…or whether we’d be able to go at all. That night I got some welcome last minute words of encouragement and was told to try and get some sleep despite the excitement I was grappling with. I’m not sure how much sleep I got that night but I’m sure it wasn’t much, even for someone like me who’s generally up late and out of bed early every day.

Sunday – I woke up pretty early and packed up the car as I was heading home to Langley later that afternoon after shooting their autograph session at the Comox Air Force Museum. I grabbed breakfast on the way to the base and headed for the briefing. The team briefed a low show because of conditions out over the water but as I later found out, this can all change. The Boss, Major Yanick Grégoire suggested that I leave my heavy Nikon camera on the ground. This was not going to be a photo flight and with it being my first time in the jet it might be difficult to safely (and quickly) stash the Nikon or control it during certain maneuvers. I handed my camera to Public Affairs Officer, Major Indira Thackorie, took along a GoPro and a few quick pointers from TankCam video guru, Inner Left Wing, Snowbird 3, Captain Maciej Hatta and headed out to get strapped in. 

Master Corporal Egler helps me get situated in the jet - photo by Major Indira Thakore

I met Snowbird 5a, Master Corporal Russel Egler at the jet. He helped me on with my gear and getting me strapped into the aircraft. Once secure, he showed me a few key items to remember about the jet, including what to stay clear of, various switches and how to go to pure oxygen if I started feeling queasy. He handed me a sick-bag, affectionately referred to as a “Boarding Pass” and showed me a great place to keep it for quick access. After Captain Hart arrived, we went over a few things together in the cockpit before startup. Next thing I knew, the engine was running, comms were alive, the canopy came down, we shook hands and began the taxi! 

The Boss ran through a quick verbal simulation for an aborted takeoff procedure as we lined up for takeoff clearance. We then setup for a Triple-Vic takeoff (three groups of three, each in a V formation). Snowbird 5 leads the rear vic with Snowbirds 8 and 9, Lead Solo, Captain Shamus Allen and Opposing Solo, Captain Craig Sharp. Taxiing out for a runway 12 triple-vic departure The takeoff was a lot like the section takeoffs we do back home with the old “tail-dragger” Harvard/T-6’s but with a nose wheel, a good starting look down the runway and quicker acceleration delivered from the General Electric J85 turbojet engine.

What some people may not see at a show happens between takeoff and the teams opening formation. You’ll most certainly hear Snowbird 10, Captain Blake McNaughton  or 11, Captain Regan Wickett refer to the shakeout and warmup as the team leaves the area after takeoff. Warming up refers to working through a few maneuvers in the full nine-plane formation. The shakeout is done independently with a lot of distance as each pilot puts their aircraft and body through a quick transition from positive five G to negative two G. I’d felt a little over three positive G on several occasions but had never felt negative G before this flight. Getting stuffed into the seat before being quickly torn out is an eye opener for a first-timer but it felt amazing and certainly amps up your adrenaline while you quickly pan around to see where you’re pointing. It was then that I heard the Boss call for the High Show. See? Things changed. I might have missed it somewhere earlier but this was a pleasant surprise for me.

The Show – Running in toward the crowded beach ahead made me think instantly of how this has looked so many times through my camera down on the ground. Hearing the Snowbirds “check-in” (more on that later), waiting for the right range, check the spacing, good smoke and an incredible backdrop…*click* There are so many things to take away from this day. I actually began clapping when I heard "CONNN-TAAAACT!!" come across the radio during the solo's Co-360. There are simply too many things to outline from this flight but if I had to pick a few standouts they’d go like this.

Kilt to double-diamond setup, tightening over water The multiple formation changes that occur not only in level flight, but the ones that take place during a looping maneuver are spectacular. It’s spatial awareness at its best as they’re shifting around to different positions while performing a maneuver that puts them on their backs.

The rejoins are amazing and in my opinion, severely under-appreciated by the average spectator. I’ve always admired the way the team gets back in formation so quickly after a split maneuver. I’m sure those big speed brakes help when you’re pulling up to the formation but in all honesty, it’s just super impressive to watch how quick they form up and slot into their positions. I watched the team coast overhead and settle in front of us while the First Line Astern pilot, Snowbird 4, Captain Philippe Roy slid in from the left, right between us and the lead. As that’s happening, Outer Right Wing, Snowbird 6, Capt Greg Hume-Powell and Left Outer Wing,
Snowbird 7, Major Steven Reed close in on either side of us. It’s just incredible to see up close and forces the level of appreciation for this skill to skyrocket.

The Canada Burst – Looks gentle enough and always gets a huge cheer from the crowd. On the way in as the team prepared for the climb, Capt Hart says to me, “we’re going in for the Canada Burst…just so you know…a lot of people come out of this feeling not too well…” Up we go, little bit of G as we transition upward, this is pretty cool, right? As the Boss calls for the split we almost immediately begin to push over the top which brings on about 2.5 negative G. I actually felt some liquid dripping back into my face from my mask and Canada Burst followed by a great rejoin definitely understood the purpose of that lovely little negative G strap that comes up between your legs and latches in to your waist belts. It’s funny how it really doesn’t look as though it could be anything less than gentle because of how graceful they make it look. No sir, not that gentle! But fun!

Yes, the “Boarding Pass” – As we approached the beach for the nine-ship Line Abreast I heard the Boss addressing the crowd and I thought, “hey, I made it! All the aeros are done and I kept it in, feeling pretty good too…” Before I could pat myself on the back like an idiot, I realized that since the flying had settled, so had my body and it quickly let me know exactly where “it” was sitting and “it” wasn’t comfortable. Caution is the greater part of valor, right? I grabbed the bag and punched my ticket before we landed. No shame there. Or so they told me. They could have been lying.

To summarize, if I can, this flight was a lot of things. It was a thrilling experience, a chance to learn and greater appreciate the part of this whole "machine" I hadn’t seen. It fulfilled a childhood fantasy the very second I heard the Snowbird check-in from inside the cockpit and turned into something I’m not sure I was ever able to dream about until it happened in April of 2016.

Feeling great with the best view in the house! I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Major Yanick Grégoire, Captain Matthew Hart, Master Corporal Russ Egler and the entire Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds team for the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s not something I’ll ever take lightly and I hope this write-up has done at least some justice to what I was given. My sincere thanks to Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer for taking my camera to the beach and capturing some great photos from my flight!

In closing; Inspiration doesn’t have an age limit or a shelf-life. A forty year old man turned into a young boy in a big crowd, staring at the nine twinkling lights, full of dreams and aspirations. I think that’s the most impressive part of the job they do... and they do it very well. 





PHOTOS taken from my GoPro, my Nikon and
the #TankCam, courtesy the Department of National Defense and Snowbird 3


Form the famous #TankCam! Courtesy of the Department of National Defense and Snowbird 3


Failed attempt to capture the 4-Way Cross but still a cool look at Snowbird 8 Top-side down! Reflections in the visor
Heading out! Photo by Major Indira Thackorie formation tightening as we head over the water 9-ship LA over over the water! Photo by Major Indira Thackorie

#TankCam footage!



]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) 19 Wing CFB Comox CT-114 Canadian Armed Forces Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds Comox RCAF Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds Tutor Thu, 26 May 2016 06:06:05 GMT
2015 Abbotsford International Airshow Recap

This year marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. To mark the anniversary of the first confrontation won entirely by air power, the Abbotsford International Airshow built their 2015 show with the theme, “Aces, Warriors & Wingmen”.  A fitting tribute to those brave airmen dubbed, the “Few” by Sir Winston Churchill at this, the 53rd running of the iconic show from the Pacific Northwest.

Team Building…
2015 would quickly become one of the most highly anticipated years for the Abbotsford International Airshow not long after the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) convention let out in late 2014. It was there that the shows organizers would formally and officially announce that the Breitling Jet Team was going to make its first ever Canadian appearance in Abbotsford as part of its upcoming two year American tour. The Breitling Jet Team, while based in France are owned and operated by the world famous Swiss chronograph company and perform with seven Estonian registered, Czechoslovakian made L-39 Albatros jets. They travel with a spare jet and a Fairchild Metroliner support aircraft.

Breitling would join our own Canadian Forces Snowbirds, giving the show a two-team lineup to build on. The Snowbirds, who also dedicated their season to the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, are commemorating their 45th season as a demonstration team. The jets were marked with the 75th anniversary logo on the tail and the specially designed 45th anniversary logo just behind the canopy. The team would once again be led into Abbotsford by second year team Lead, Major Patrick Gobeil. Maj Gobeil is no stranger to the big stage in Abbotsford. This year would mark his fifth season performing as a member of one of Canada’s demonstration teams. He flew the #6 jet (Outer Right Wing) in 2005-2006 with the Snowbirds and would return in 2012 as the CF-18 demonstration pilot in the beautiful “True North Strong and Free” themed jet.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds in Big Diamond crossing Mt. Baker The Breitling Jet Team open their first ever Abbotsford performance with a Mt.Baker pass.











More of the Roar…
One of the most popular jets on the North American airshow scene was Canada’s own specially themed CF-18, flown by Captain Denis “Cheech” Beaulieu. This is actually the same jet flown by the team in 2014 by Capt Adam “Manik” Runge but was repainted to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The paint scheme featured a full topside camouflage pattern and markings resembling one of the more famous Hawker Hurricanes that fought in the confrontation.

It’s no secret that it had been a few years since Abbotsford, or any Canadian show for that matter, had been able to boast any US Military jets in their flying lineup or static areas. Budget cuts would remove funding for the US Military to send its aircraft (both static and demonstration) north of the border and for one year, would be completely removed from any/all airshows in the US as well. This included the standing down of both their military formation teams. Organizers scrambled to fill the void and sadly, some shows didn’t survive. Canada still had its CF-18 Demo Team touring across Canada and both they and the Snowbirds were helping to pick up the slack for their US neighbours as well. 2014 saw the standing up of both the US Military formation teams, the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, both with full US schedules and limited participation from single ship demos at some US airshows. Canada’s teams would continue to support shows south of the border while the slight loosening of purse strings in the US was still not permitting their aircraft to head north to destinations like Abbotsford or Toronto.

Finally, in 2015, the news organizers in Abbotsford had been hoping for was about to come to fruition. The highly coveted United States Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team announced that it would be coming to Abbotsford. F-22 demo pilot, Major John “Taboo” Cummings noted that the he and the team were anxious to get to Abbotsford and repay the continued support of the Canadian teams during the period known mainly as, “sequestration”. The F-22 had been on the Abbotsford schedule in years past but an issue with the entire fleet would ground the demo for the entire season before sequestration took it from them a second time. But have no fear, not only did the F-22 finally make its long awaited debut in Abbotsford, it also landed and staged from Abbotsford after there had been talk of the jets staging in nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington. Another first for Abbotsford!

So how about the US Navy? With a somewhat late and very welcome addition, they sent a pair of F/A-18 Super Hornets (Rhinos) from the VFA-122 Flying Eagles at NAS Lemoore, CA. This would be the first time that Abbotsford would be host to a single-seat E model, which was piloted by LT Brice “Rihanna” Wheeler. The USN TAC Demo team also sent a long a two-seater F model, piloted by LT Brett “Lobster” Jakovich with his WSO, LT Nolan “Fat Hands” Lucas.

That’s THREE unique jet demos, in case you’re counting at home!

Warbirds and more…
No airshow is complete without a good selection of piston pounders. With the theme of the show centering around the Battle of Britain it was imperative to have aircraft that related to the confrontation. For yet another Abbotsford first, the Flying Heritage Collection from Paine Field in Everett, WA would make their Canadian debut with their Supermarine Spitfire MK Ve and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, “Tallahassee Lassie”. FHC had originally intended to send their Hawker Hurricane but were forced to keep it at home and instead graciously offered to send the Thunderbolt in its place.

The show also boasted a pair of P-51 Mustangs, a B model from Historic Flight Foundation, flown by John Sessions and a D model from Heritage Flight Museum, piloted by Lt Col Greg Anders (retired) that would fly the USAF Heritage Flight with the F-22 Raptor. There was also the mighty A-1 Skyraider (pilot Alan Anders, Heritage Flight Foundation), the oldest flying B-25 Mitchell, “Grumpy” (from Historic Flight Foundation, piloted by Vera Martinovich), the famed (and local) de Havilland Mosquito, “F for Freddie”, piloted by Steve Hinton, owned by Mr. Bob Jens). The warbird contingent was rounded out nicely with a pair of North American Harvard’s.  The Mk IV owned by Bill Findlay and Vic Bentley (flown by Bill Findlay) and an earlier MK II, owned by the Canadian Museum of Flight and flown by George Kirbyson.


Brent Handy, out of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, made his second consecutive trip to Abbotsford with his Pitts S2-B. In his second season as a solo aerobatic performer, Brent comes with a wealth of flying experience that includes a military career with both the CF-18 Hornet and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. North Dakota’s own Kent Pietsch returned with his 800-pound, Jelly Belly sponsored Interstate Cadet and “world’s smallest” airport. Kent is a crowd favorite wherever he goes and one of the truest gentlemen of the airshow industry. Geoff Latter, a local to the Abbotsford airport and West Jet First Officer would make his debut at the show with his CJ-6 Nanchang, affectionately known as “Nancy”. You don’t see many solo performers doing aerobatics in the Chinese built warbird but Geoff can show you how it’s done. Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes were added to the show early on in an effort to bolster lineups for both the daytime weekend shows and the Friday twilight show. Not only do Gene and Teresa do a phenomenal wing walking/aerobatic routine in the daytime, Gene is also a very accomplished performer in the night sky with aerobatic flying, complimented with pyrotechnics on his wings. The twilight show also offered the soaring guru, Manfred Radius with his sailplaine and Dan Buchanan with his motorized hang glider. Both performers, each with their own flying styles, include vibrant pyrotechnics with each of their routines.



The Static Line…
Abbotsford welcomed back the United States Air Force in a big way with a B-52 Stratofortress from Barskdale AFB in Louisiana and a C-17 Globemaster from Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska. The Canadian Forces sent their own CC-177 Globemaster from CFB Trenton along with a C-130J Hercules, the new CH-147F, CP-140 Aurora and many others to round out a full static line that included Nav Canada’s RJ, the Commemorative Air Forces (Arizona Wing), B-17 Flying Fortress,” Sentimental Journey”, a PBY Catalina from the Catalina Preservation Society in Victoria and a vast array of GA aircraft.

The show was easily the best I’d seen in Abbotsford since 2012. As with just about every show I’ve ever been to in Canada, this one was opened with a stunning display of precision parachute flying by the Canadian Army’s, Skyhawks. Breaking formations at near fifty feet from the ground was enough to win over the crowd and get things rolling in the right direction.


It’s probably safe to say that the F-22 Raptor demo stole much of the show with its incredible power and maneuvering ability. The flat turn was by far and away one of the most impressive things seen all weekend but sadly can’t be done any justice with a photograph. You just have to see it for yourself. With a slot opened in the twilight show, the F-22 stepped in which came as a surprise to many, but if there’s a better way to make your debut at an airshow, I’d like to see it.

2015 was the second year for the very popular twilight show at Abbotsford. There are fewer backdrops that beat Mt. Baker on an August day after 6PM. Both jet teams, a trio of Merlin powered warbirds, the Raptor and the CF-18 led the way and the evening was capped off with the night performances of Gene Soucy, Dan Buchanan, Manfred Radius and a tremendous fireworks display.


Both daytime shows were incredibly entertaining and included the USN TAC Demo F/A-18 Rhino demo team who weren’t flying a demo on Friday. Fans were treated to the E model on Saturday and the F on Sunday. Other notables during the show were the entire cast of warbirds, grouped by engine type, Brent Handy racing the Smoke ‘N Thunder Jet car in a weekend long grudge match and mind blowing pyro from the incredible team at AV8FX.


Sunday’s show was capped off by an announcement over the PA that was made by Snowbird Lead, Maj Patrick Gobeil as the team flew the 9-ship line abreast pass over center stage. The announcement; that long time airshow announcer, Roy Hafeli of H2A2 Airshow Announcers was being made an Honorary Snowbird. Most sincere and heartfelt congratulations to my friend, Roy. Well deserved!


Until Next Year…
Putting on something of this magnitude doesn’t happen in the week leading up to the show when things are noticeably busy, even chaotic. The work on next year begins almost as soon as this year ends. It takes hard working and committed staff and a massive group of dedicated volunteers to build the show, set it up, pull it off and tear it down. I’ve been getting more and more involved with the show over the last four years and my appreciation for the blood sweat and tears aspect of Abbotsford is at an all-time high.

Thank you to everyone who helps to make this show as great at as it is. It’s just not possible without you. It's an honour and a privilege just being a small part of what makes it so incredibly awesome. 

See you again soon.

Click here for the up to date gallery of images from the 2015 Abbotsford International Airshow
(Images will be added and/or replaced over time)

As if there's a better way to close this out...
A video put together by Match Productions and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Abbotsford Abbotsford International Airshow Alan Anders Aviation Brent Handy CF-18 Canadian Forces Canadian Museum of Flight F-22 F/A-18 Flying Flying Heritage Collection Geoff Latter Harvard Heritage Flight Museum Historic Flight Foundation Raptor Rhino Skyhawks Snowbirds T-6 USAF USN TAC Demo de Havilland Mosquito Wed, 09 Sep 2015 01:55:23 GMT
Spring Training - Comox 2015


Each year, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Canadian Forces CF-18 Demo Team hold court in beautiful Comox, British Columbia for spring training. Comox offers an ideal climate for the early month of April and provides a location where they can work on their performances above ground and water. The teams fly up to two practices a day which means there's plenty of plane spotting and several airshows enjoyed from Air Force Beach for the locals in the Courtenay/Comox area throughout most of April. 

The Routine
The Snowbirds arrive early each morning, gathering in the ops room around a long table. Idle chatter goes immediately silent for time hack and with that, the morning pre-flight briefing begins. Weather conditions determine whether the team will practice the high show or the low show. Even on the seemingly nicest of days, weather can still be a detriment to the practice. The Boss, Major (Maj) Patrick Gobeil, leads the team through a verbal rehearsal of the entire flight. Each pilot sounds off in accordance with the maneuver as though in the cockpit. The lead solo takes over and runs rough the solo's performance with the opposing solo pilot before handing it back to the Boss. On this day, Snowbird 6, Captain (Capt) Maciej "Match" Hatta throws emergency scenarios to some of the pilots to help practice emergency procedures that hopefully aren't required during a show. These scenarios can range from loss of thrust on takeoff to loss of communication between the solos during the head-on passes.

Snowbirds briefing the march-outSnowbirds briefing the march-out Discussing spacing for the sim-turns on the ramp

As someone who has a deep interest in formation flying, I find the briefings just as entertaining as the flying. Before attending spring training for the first time last year, I had always wanted to know how you brief a flight that starts with nine aircraft, splits into groups of four and five with a pair of solos running around and then ends up regrouping before your eyes as a nine-ship once again. It takes incredible amounts of skill, coordination and discipline to make this look as seamless as they do. It's absolutely brilliant to witness and opens up a whole new level of appreciation for what they do.

The New Faces Around the Table
This year there are four new pilots, one new coordinator and Public Affairs Officer. Their time in Comox is as much about their training as new team members as it is about team bonding before they set out on a five month tour across North America. Each year, half the team is new and despite all the time spent training at home in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, this is very much like a simulated road trip, flying two shows a day with various appearances and functions along the way. 

New to the team this year are:
Snowbird #2 - Inner Right Wing: Capt Ave Pyne, from Victoria, BC
Snowbird #5 - Second Line Astern: Capt Matthew, Hart from Parksville, BC
Snowbird #7 - Outer Left Wing: Capt Steve Reed, from Nepean, ON
Snowbird #8 - Opposing Solo: Capt Shamus Allen, from Peterborough, ON
Snowbird #11 - Coordinator: Capt Regan Wickett, from Saskatoon, SK
Public Affairs Officer: Lt Patricia Brunelle, from Ottawa, ON

The team also travel to Comox with a number of aviation technicians and support staff that includes their two Standards Pilots, Capt Brent Handy and Capt Brett Parker. A complete team listing can be found on their official website.

Morning walkout to the aircraft before practice Snowbird #5 Matt Hart w/JetSnowbird #5 Second Line Astern - Capt Matthew Hart

Celebrating 45 Years 
The 2015 season marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the Snowbirds. This anniversary is made all the more special by the fact that all forty-five years have been with the Canadair CT-114 Tutor. This means that no matter when a pilot has been a Snowbird, whether it was in 1973 or 2015, they've all flown the same jet and share that experience together. This year, the aircraft will have a special logo behind the canopy's to mark the milestone and they've also got a few tricks up their sleeve too. They've brought back a few maneuvers from their past that will most definitely impress those who haven't seen them before and create nostalgia in those who have. These maneuvers are, the Card Nine, the Double-Take and the five-four takeoff. The five-four takeoff involves the team launching in two groups of five and four aircraft versus the three groups of three that a lot of people are maybe more familiar with. There are conditions, both weather and runway that have to be met in order to perform the five-four takeoff, a maneuver that hasn't been performed as part of their show since the very early nineties.

Double-TakeThe Double-Take

The "TankCam" - A Social Media Superstar
Whether you spend time on social media or just read the news online from time to time, chances are you've seen video from the other comeback of the 45th anniversary season. The "TankCam" isn't entirely new but the way that it delivers its jaw dropping footage is. Modern sport camera technology has made its way into the modified smoke tank in the form of three GoPro cameras on a specially designed platform behind a plexiglass lens. The tank is usually carried on the lead aircraft so it can look back with it's super wide angle and capture the other eight aircraft along with a lot of their surroundings during the flight. In a recent photo chase we took part in during my visit, the tank was mounted to the tenth Tutor so it could lead all nine aircraft and the CF-18 demo jet. The videos you see are masterfully put together by Snowbird #6, Capt Maciej "Match" Hatta. The combined footage from the three cameras makes for some seriously large files but its worth it, both as a very valuable training aid for the team and a stunning visual perspective for the fans who want to see what it's like to be along for the ride of a lifetime. Check out the "Snowbirds Tankorama" video below, linked from the Match Productions YouTube channel.

TankCam on Snowbird #1

The Photo Chase
Wednesday, April 22nd was the day selected to do the photo chase with the Snowbirds and CF-18 Demo Team. After the morning briefing, we'd depart CFB Comox on a CC-115 Buffalo from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron and meet the teams in the air. The chase included a few approaches by the Snowbirds before they briefly left to join up with the CF-18, in formation, and come back towards us. Flying out over the incredible scenery of Campbell River, Desolation Sound and Mout Washington provided the ultimate backdrop for our photos. Afterwards, the Snowbirds departed the area to put their tankcam to use and we were joined by the Hornet for a good amount of time with which to capture some outstanding photographs. Capt Deni "Cheech" Beaulieu did a great job of showing off the aircraft at different angles, in "dirty" configuration and even pulled up alongside and rolled it over before throwing it into a bank as he pulled away from us and headed back to Comox. The flight concluded with an exciting SAR simulation in the Buffalo as we sat back and enjoyed a "valley run". The crew pulled the power way back, dropped the flaps full, lowered the gear for drag and began a pretty rapid decent down into a valley. Having always wanted to fly in a "Buff", I found myself in awe at the performance of the big yellow aircraft. The flight was capped off by a very quick stop on the runway back at CFB Comox, another trademark of the CC-115. Big thanks to 442 Squadron and both of the teams for inviting us to participate in this unbelievable photo shoot. It's something I know I'll never forget.

Capt Denis "Cheech" Beaulieu in the Battle of Britain demo jet Snowbirds 1, 4 & 5 banking away from the photoship

Until Next Time
The teams performed their Acceptance Shows on April 28th and passed with flying colours. There wasn't much time to rest at home before each team had to fly their first show, the Snowbirds at home for their opener in Moose Jaw and the CF-18 demo team, in Chino, CA.

I'd like to thank both the Canadian Force Snowbirds and the Canadian Forces CF-18 Demo Team for allowing me the up-close access for the week that was in Comox, BC. Especially to the Public Affairs Officers, Lieutenant Patricia Brunelle (Snowbirds) and Lieutenant Matthew Strong (CF-18 Demo Team) for making sure this all went as smoothly as it did. I'm sure with everything that happens in the day-to-day it feels a little like herding kittens.

On a personal note, I'd like to offer special thanks to the Snowbirds. I came away from this trip feeling as though I experienced something only a Snowbird could, and with that, a gap in my life feels as though it's started to close. I enjoyed getting to know each of you a little more this year from last and made a couple of new friends in the process. The Snowbirds "Public Relations gene" is a real thing and it's no surprise that you are as highly regarded as you so often are. 

The 2015 Canadian Forces Snowbirds Canadian Forces Snowbirds Technicians

So with that begins a long season of flying to and performing at shows across North America, representing Canada, the Canadian Forces and making a grateful nation very proud in the process. I look forward to seeing you on the road and here at my home show in Abbotsford, BC. 

Happy 45th Anniversary, Snowbirds!


]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) 431 Squadron 442 Squadron Aerobatics CF-18 Demo Team CFB Comox CT-114 Canadian Forces Comox Double Take Snowbirds TankCam Tutor Mon, 04 May 2015 02:58:20 GMT
Celebrating 50 Years with the CT-114 Tutor As seen in Skies Magazine
On Oct. 3, the Royal Canadian Air Force marked the 50th anniversary of the Canadair CT-114 Tutor’s first operational flight in Canada. Visitors to Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw, Sask., were welcomed with a base tour that included a walk along the flight line, a chance to watch departing aircraft from the air traffic control tower, a visit to Flight Ops and a demonstration on emergency ejection procedures in a Harvard II ejection trainer. The tour concluded back out on the flight line with an opportunity to get up close and personal with the three types of aircraft that call CFB Moose Jaw home: the CT-156 Harvard II, the CT-155 Hawk, and of course, the CT-114 Tutor. For a lot of guests, this was a chance to get reacquainted with the Tutor, as many had trained on or maintained them at some point in their careers. Some instructed on the iconic aircraft while some also flew it in its more familiar role with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. 
As one might expect on an October day in Moose Jaw, it was rather windy and cold, but the sky was clear. This permitted fly-pasts featuring Hawks, Harvard IIs and Tutors for a large crowd that was gathered with the Snowbirds lined up ahead of them on the apron. The program concluded with the Snowbirds’ final show of the 2014 season. Guests, along with base personnel, several student pilots, and those who will join the team next year, gazed skyward as the team put an exclamation mark on a terrific day honouring the Tutor and saying goodbye to team members who will be leaving them after this season. The team taxied by the waiting crowd on their way to the hangar to celebrate a successful season in which the group was able to fulfil its schedule with no less than all nine aircraft performing at every show. This feat is not only due to the good health of the pilots, but as current deputy crew chief MCpl Martin Myre commented, “Our technicians are trained at an extremely high level and our aircraft are tested to tolerance levels beyond what they’d experience during a performance.” Myre, on his third year with the team, added that this isn’t without its challenges as parts become harder to source as the life expectancy of the Tutor could see another five years. 
A dinner was hosted by 431 Squadron in the Snowbirds hangar on Saturday evening. Guests gathered around to look at Tutor memorabilia which included incredible photo albums that conjured up stories spanning the last 50 years. Commanding Officer of 431 Squadron, LCol Christopher England, has nearly 2,000 hours of flight time on the Tutor and says he knows exactly why we’re able to celebrate reaching 50 years of operational flight on the aircraft. “When the designers put pen to paper, I don’t think they expected it to remain in service for 50 years. It’s a true testament to the technicians who’ve meticulously maintained these aircraft through the years. As pilots, we fly them and we break them. It’s our technicians who keep them flying.” 
The honorary speaker for the evening, D.F. (Yogi) Huyghebaert, flew two tours with the Snowbirds both as the number nine solo in 1974-1975, and as team leader in 1985-1986. He shared stories and special memories of the aircraft he’d spent so much time with. Yogi came to the RCAF during a short period of time when pilots were being put straight onto the Tutor. There was no elementary trainer to cut your teeth on; just the sporty little Canadian-made jet.
The team’s new boss for the 2014-2015 seasons, Maj Patrick Gobeil, is one of the few remaining pilots who did his basic training on the Tutor back in 1999. “It’s a fantastic aircraft, like a sports car, very solid and of course, Canadian made. The slower speed keeps our show pretty tight and the lower cost makes it easier for us to keep flying a nine-plane team.” 
Guests were honoured to help celebrate this milestone in Moose Jaw. Fifty years is a major accomplishment for the reliable little Tutor—a true Canadian aviation icon.
]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) CF CFB Moose Jaw CT-114 Tutor Canadian Forces Mike Luedey Skies Magazine Snowbirds Tutor 50th Thu, 09 Oct 2014 04:43:35 GMT
What Goes Around In 2012 I was volunteering with Canadian Museum of Flight at the Abbotsford International Airshow in Abbotsford, British Columbia. It's really the only time each year I get a chance to see aircraft like the CF-18 or jet formation teams like the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and Unites States Air Force Thunderbirds. There were a few CF-18's on site that year along with a compliment of USAF and USN aircraft but the real show stopper was the beautifully painted Demo bird (781) from 3 Wing in Bagotville, Quebec flown by (then) Captain Patrick "Paco" Gobeil.  Paco snaps a salute as he taxis out for the demo

Paco flew the CF-18 to perfection, lots of G in every turn, a perfect box loop and stunning photo passes that showed off the paint scheme on the fighter from every angle. The only unfortunate part of the weekend was his Saturday demo being cut short during a box loop when an apparent warning light indicated an over-stress on one of the wings. The demo was immediately stopped while he gained some altitude and assessed the situation out of harms way. After a safe landing his dedicated team went straight to work diagnosing the issue and carrying out repairs which went well into the evening. On Sunday 781 was back online and Paco and the CF-18 demo team were able to leave Abbotsford on a strong note with a stellar demo. 

Beyond the masterful job at the controls there lies another quality with Patrick that you'd find instantly if you were fortunate enough to meet him at one of the teams many appearances. That quality is absolute, total class. As a Canadian I always feel a strong sense of pride when I think about how we're represented on this very big stage by the men and women of our Armed Forces. Paco is no exception, he's the example and a damn good one.

It was for that reason that I got to work on a photo project with some of the shots I'd collected at the show. I didn't know what I was going to do with it when it was done besides maybe print it, fame it and hang it up in my office. I had shared it on a Facebook page for CF-18 enthusiasts which led to a conversation with someone who apparently knew Paco and thought he'd really love to see it. That got me thinking about how I might send this framed print to him in Bagotville. It actually wasn't long after that I found out Paco had been named Lead Pilot for the Snowbirds starting in 2014. Capt Patrick "Paco" GobeilCapt Patrick "Paco" GobeilPaco flew the 2012 CF-18 Demo on behalf of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Patrick and the rest of the team did a masterful job of representing their Country in every way. I proceeded to have a conversation with Jim Reith, President of the Abbotsford Airshow and he indicated that Paco might be joining the team as it came through Abbotsford and maybe I could present the print to him then. I ran with the idea and even got Jim to frame it. Who knew the President of the Airshow also did custom framing? I didn't! As it would turn out, Paco would not be with the team when they came to town so I had to find another way to deliver the print. It was suggested I try asking the 2013 CF-18 demo pilot, Capt Patrick "Flocho" Pollen how to get it to him in Bagotville but before I could do that their Public Affairs Officer told me that Paco had already been sent to CFB Moose Jaw and the best person to ask would be Capt Thomas Edelson, PAO for the Snowbirds. I managed to get in touch with Capt Edelson while he was here with the team and he very kindly offered to meet me after the Sunday show and take the print back to Moose Jaw in the teams trailer so that Paco would be sure to get it....He also saved me a few bucks shipping it! Delivered!!

Fast forward another few weeks. I'm sitting at work and receive an email from (now) Major Patrick "Paco" Gobeil thanking me for the print and tells me that it's hung in his new home in Moose Jaw. He continued by saying he owed me a beer and I should come out to Comox during Snowbird Spring training to get it. How do you say no to that?! Now into April 2014 and another email from Paco asking me to let Capt Edelson know what days I'd be in Comox...getting excited now. April 23rd I took a ferry to the island and made the 1.5 hour drive from Duke Point terminal to Comox. I spent the first night doing an interview and artifact gathering for a display at the Museum and while eating dinner actually experienced a mild earthquake about 30 paces from the ocean! April 24 Kye Bay rdApril 24 Kye Bay rdShot from Key Bay road during the afternoon practice on a very windy April 24th Thursday morning I got a call from Thomas regarding my visit to the base and we set a time for Friday morning. I spent Thursday afternoon around the base shooting the practice and trying not to get blown over in the heavy winds we were treated to. Despite the winds the team looked great in practice and it made for some decent photos.







Friday morning I woke up pretty early. I checked out of my hotel and headed for the base with a coffee in hand for Thomas. CFB Comox has to be one of the prettiest and most picturesque locations I've ever been to. Literally an aviation photographers delight at every angle. I met Thomas at the MP's shack and got signed in along with Erin Haluschak from the Comox Valley Record. We headed for the ramp just as the Snowbirds were departing in their usual 3 of 3 section take-off. I remember looking around and thinking to myself about how awesome it was to be basically be getting a front row seat to my own airshow! The incredible backdrop and beautiful formation maneuvers made for several great photos and for the first time I'd get to see the Snowbirds taxi towards me and line up with the awaiting techs on the ramp. I was given a lot of leeway on the ramp which was terrific and made several shots a lot easier to get. After they shutdown we walked over for more photos and I was able to get a team photo after their quick post flight meeting. Thanks to Capt Edelson I was able to get myself in a team photo as well, what a keepsake! 

April 25 CFB ComoxApril 25 CFB Comox Team photo take 2 - April 25 CFB ComoxTeam photo take 2 - April 25 CFB ComoxPhoto taken by Capt Thomas Edelson
Edited by Me










The debriefing - April 25 CFB ComoxThe debriefing - April 25 CFB Comox

Paco invited us to join the team for the debriefing and as someone who's been trying to learn the in's and out's of formation flying over the last couple of years I can tell you it was thrilling! I've been wondering how they brief/debrief a nine plane formation that breaks up into groups. They sat around the table, went over safeties and then briefed the video of the flight from the smoke test to the shutdown...nothing was missed...not even a landing light that was left on, making for a good laugh around the room (sorry Paco).






After the debrief, Paco signed my copy of that same print I'd given him last year, then we walked out to his aircraft (114109) for a few photos. He gave me a tremendous quote to use for the Abbotsford Airshow's souvenir program, talked about what it was like being Snowbird lead and let me climb inside the cockpit for an up close look at the Tutor. I've been wanting to complete a restoration on our Museum's Tutor (114003) for some time now and getting a look at a complete and operational machine with a pristine cockpit was a huge help. It also showed me how much work I have left to do! As I was looking things over he picked up my camera and took a few photos for me, one of which is proudly displayed on my office wall. 

The Boss - April 25 CFB ComoxThe Boss - April 25 CFB Comox

Me in #1 - April 25 CFB ComoxMe in #1 - April 25 CFB ComoxPhoto taken by Maj Patrick "Paco" Gobeil
Edited by Me











We headed back to the hangar and I rejoined Captain Edelson for a while before heading back to the car to go find a spot to shoot the afternoon practice from. I caught an evening ferry back to the mainland but had already decided I wanted to try and get back for the May 6th acceptance show, which I did and I'm sure BC Ferries didn't mind me lining their pockets for a second time in just over a week.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone to know that the teams Acceptance Show was a success and they headed back home to CFB Moose Jaw the following day.  May 06 - Air Force BeachMay 06 - Air Force Beach

I started working on my photos immediately after returning home from each of the two trips over to the island. I liken it to a "kid at Christmas" after a day of shooting like that and maybe more so after being able to spend time on the ramp and in the briefing room. 

I find it almost hard to believe that this story took two years to tell itself and actually happened! When I decided to frame and give that print to Paco it was done without expectation and nothing more than just wanting to thank a brilliant pilot and outstanding individual for representing us the way he did. It's not surprising at all to see him now flying lead with the Snowbirds. Selfishly, I know that as a Canadian we get two more years with him on that grand stage, with that massive responsibility and natural ability to fly all the while reminding everyone why the Canadian Forces Snowbirds are highly regarded as a premier demonstration team and the epitome of formation flying. Not a show goes by that I don't well up with pride when I see the nine lights coming toward me and that won't ever change. 

I'd like to thank the Snowbirds for an incredible adventure and opportunity. Special thanks go to Capt Thomas Edelson for running point during my visit and especially for the offer to take that print back to Moose Jaw for me and deliver it to Paco last year. 

Major Patrick Gobeil. For the thrill of a lifetime and an experience I won't soon forget but one I hope to have again sometime. I have a wall full of memories, a lot of stories to tell and photos to look at. 


What goes around truly does comes around, whether you expect it or not.



]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Mon, 12 May 2014 07:03:04 GMT
Heritage Flight Museum Bids Farewell to Bellingham Our friends at Heritage Flight Museum are moving. In a recent press release HFM's Executive Director, Greg Anders said that after evaluating their current situation and future potential, they felt a move to Skagit County was a way for the Museum to "survive and thrive". The Museum, founded by Apollo 8 Astronaut, Bill Anders, has been located in Bellingham for about twelve years and open/operational as the Heritage Flight Museum for ten of those years. So, on Saturday, November 16, 2013, HFM held its final once-monthly “Fly Day” at the Bellingham International Airport (KBLI) before they begin packing up and moving to their beautiful new facility and its 20,000 square foot hangar at Skagit Regional Airport (KBVS).

Despite less than perfect weather, Saturday saw a lot of flying and got its share of round engine noise with the occasional Merlin thrown in for good measure. The first flight, which occurred before noon, featured a 4-ship formation led by Greg Anders in his T-6 along with Alan Anders (T-6), Craig Nelson (SNJ) and Bill Findlay (Harvard). After lunch, a 2-ship sortie was launched, led by Alan Anders with Mark Kandianis. This was immediately followed by a 3-ship, led by Bill Findlay with Craig Nelson and Greg Anders.

Greg Anders in his T-6D "Hog Wild Gunner"

The finale was a carefully coordinated effort involving four of the T-6s along with the Museum's P-51. It began with a solo Mustang sortie, flown by Greg Anders. This was timed so that the four T-6s were on their way to the run-up area as the Mustang took off. The T-6 formation, led by Alan Anders, was launched and left the area to form up for a Missing Man pass over the Museum. The group passed overhead, lights on in an Echelon Left formation as Bill Findlay pulled up and turned west. The rest of the group circled around to collect Bill's Harvard and then were joined by the P-51 which was loitering nicely in the area much to my pleasure in the backseat of the Harvard. I've never been in such a wonderful position as to 'check-six' and see a beautiful vintage fighter bearing down as though about to go guns on us! Greg pulled the Mustang into the lead position of a now 5-ship Echelon Right formation. The group would eventually change to a Vic formation before making the first of two passes over the Museum. The final pass of the day was an Echelon Right and was completed with each of the five aircraft breaking left one at a time before heading in for a solo low approach and left break to landing.

With the day’s flying in the books, the crews took to the hangar to raise a toast in commemoration of 10 years in Bellingham - to the friends, volunteers and staff who've been there along the way, and to the start of a new chapter about to be written in Skagit. Greg delivered the toast, very appropriately, with chromed shot glasses made from spent 30mm shell casings from Iraq. Excellent touch!

Cell phone photo: Spent 30mm casings that were chromed after being fired in Iraq.

I've been going to Heritage Flight Museum for the better part of two years now with my good friend, Bill Findlay. I've been living a dream of sorts as I've been given an opportunity to fly with, learn from and photograph a very skilled group of pilots. I've flown alongside a P-51, an A-1 Skyraider and all the T-6s you can shake a stick at. I've sat in on detailed briefings and debriefings, learned a great deal about formation flying and been given a real taste of the flying I hope to do myself someday. I've come to know men who've flown jets that I had pictures of on my walls while growing up and I've even met an honest-to-goodness Astronaut! Most importantly, I've been welcomed into this community by an absolutely amazing group of people and even after everything I've seen and experienced so far...I still have to pinch myself to make sure the dream isn't, in fact, just that.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends at Heritage Flight Museum the very best with their new adventures and I think I speak for Bill when I say that we can't wait to help celebrate their Grand Opening!

Mike Luedey

Yellow Drum Productions

]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Alan Anders Anders Aviation Bellingham Bill Findlay Canadian Museum of Flight Flying Harvard Heritage Flight Museum KBLI Luedey Mark Kandianis SNJ T-6 Texan Flight blog Tue, 14 Jan 2014 07:37:46 GMT
The Museum Volunteers If there's one thing I learned quickly about the Aviation Museum it's that none of it runs without Volunteer power. These are the folks who come from all over to give their time and energy in an effort to help the Museum  maintain what it is and strive towards what it wants to be. Volunteering means you donate your time without monetary compensation. It means you might put in an 8 hour day, go home tired and your payment for this is the feeling of a job well done and the satisfaction that you've helped make a difference.

I keep the Volunteers in mind with everything I attempt to do for the Museum because they deserve that level of effort along with a good measure of  thanks for the work they do and that's why I decided to write about them here.

With my local Aviation Museum (The Canadian Museum of Flight), the Volunteers are absolutely essential, without them the doors won't open and the Museum would simply cease to exist. It doesn't have a financial backer with deep pockets and like most, it has bills to pay. They can raise money by doing things like renting out the hangar for events a number of times a year which is a terrific way to generate extra revenue but it won't happen if the Volunteers don't come in on one afternoon, haul the planes outside, tie them all down, setup tables and chairs in the hangar and then come back the next morning to put them all away and bring the planes back in....and hey, don't forget to mop the hangar floor by the way!

The Volunteers I spend most of my time with come from all walks of life. Some were in the Armed Forces, some the Commercial Aviation industry (some from both). A number of them have been involved with General Aviation and others hadn't been near an airplane at all until they first came to the Museum. They come in the door with some sort of skill to offer, time to give and a desire to help. Welcome!

I watch the Volunteers work outside in the rain because there's no hangar space for them to use and all the static aircraft have to be kept outdoors. They put in a hard days work trying to fix or improve something that's exposed to the Pacific Northwest elements all year round and hope it's not all for nothing come the springtime. I watch them try to restore an airplane in a space barely big enough to fit your Honda Civic and I hear drops of water hit the hangar floor around them because the roof is in dire need of repairs the Museum simply can't afford to make. That doesn't mean they don't spend days on the roof on the hottest days of the year trying to patch it though because they did! They did it because they wanted to and they believe in it. They're a team and maybe for some this is something they haven't felt for a good number of years. A sense of real belonging and camaraderie. We can give them that.

The aircraft are flown to various events and perform for a chance to gain some publicity for the Museum but unlike most others, they are not paid above the fuel and oil they use for the performances and still, every year those aircraft have to be annualled while hoping there's nothing needed that can't be afforded. Queue the Volunteers again, they'll get it done! The pilots go from flight suits to coveralls and back again several times a year. The air show and appearance schedule dictates what kind of summer they (and the crew) are going to have with their families. Please don't think they don't enjoy it though, they do. They're proud to fly our aircraft and do an incredible job showing off our little flying Museum. 

The Volunteers are why I want a new Museum hangar and they're why I want a better land lease for that new hangar. They're the reason I want to do what needs to be done to get more people in the doors so the work they do can be seen and better appreciated. They've more than earned it. The Museum deserves to grow because of the Volunteers who've been putting in their time all these years trying to make it happen. For as much as they give (and they give a lot) they need a reason to believe like they do. 


The most important thing in all of this is that these people are my friends and I'm beyond grateful and honored to know them all....


These are just some of the many incredible volunteers

Peter, Gordon, Cyril and Alfie - The Wing Men

John Juan way up on the DC-3 (does that look safe?)

Jim Beswick  - Master hand propper and walking, talking airplane encyclopedia

Pilot (and more) Vic Bentley


Pilots (and more) Bill Findlay, Dave Beales and Flight Ops Manager Bob Fowles

Please visit these links for more information on the Canadian Museum of Flight and our good friends at 
Heritage Flight Museum and Historic Flight Foundation.
All of them benefit greatly from Volunteers so if you're in the area, stop in and say hello :)




]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Mon, 25 Feb 2013 07:21:54 GMT
Home I've lived clear cross Canada. I was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1975. I had loving Grandparents living in New Waterford, Nova Scotia and spent an awful lot of time there with them. I moved to Kirkland, Quebec which meant we could spend more time in Toronto with my other Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. How lucky was I? Later moved to Ottawa, Ontario where I spent 14 years before crossing over to the Pacific Northwest and ending up here in Langley, BC. People always ask, "where's home for you?" Is it where you were born? Is it where you spent your youth playing in the streets? Maybe it's where you became an adult or the place where you finally went off on your own, is it there?

The answer is really neither of these. I spent fractions of my life in all those wonderful places with so many amazing people but the one constant has always been here...

Near Hope, BC This is home. This is the place that's never changed. It's a place I always want to be and never want to leave. Up here I feel closer to those I've lost along the way and get a true sense of purpose for the 37 years I've lived so far. This is where I'm grateful for everything I've done and indebted to those that have helped get me there.

Home is sweet, it's where the heart is, your castle, where you daren't feel afraid and most of all, where there are no closed doors, no stress and a never ending sense of peace and tranquility. This home is different for many people, this is mine.

I've spent most of my life wanting to go home. I've encountered roadblocks, some of my own doing. I've tried to go there but came up short. I got so close to it I could practically touch it only to end up with "what could have been's" as I went to sleep each night. This wasn't someone or something telling me I couldn't go there, it was a series of lessons learned, ended with a test and should I pass it I'd make it, there. When I do there'll be no stopping me. I know this.

I've traveled a long way to get here. There wasn't always a light at the end of the tunnel but my family and friends always kept it lit and taught me how to find it on my own. It took me here. To this castle that I share with all of those who've made the same journey... home.



~ Dedicated with love and heartfelt thanks to my family and friends. 


Photo: Taken on the way back to Langley from Princeton with Bill Findlay in his Harvard MK IV (2012).

]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Aviation Drum Flying Home Luedey Mike Productions Yellow blog writing Thu, 29 Nov 2012 03:23:48 GMT
Fly Day's at Heritage Flight Museum Through my work with the Canadian Museum of Flight I've met a number of great people including my very good friend, Bill Findlay. To call this man a friend is putting it mildly, he's also a mentor who's always been happy to show guidance, share his experiences and knowledge as I work my way towards becoming a pilot myself and hopefully joining the Museum as one of their pilots. It's through my friendship with Bill that I was able to attend my first of now many "Fly Day's" at Heritage Flight Museum in Bellingham, WA. Heritage Flight Museum, or HFM as we call it, was established in 1996 by the Anders Family. Fly Day occurs every 3rd Saturday of the month and features flights by some of their beautiful aircraft which are flown mostly by two very talented pilots, brothers Greg and Alan Anders .

Up to the time of this blog I've now been lucky enough to attend 4 Fly Day's at HFM and each time from the back seat of Bill's Harvard MK IV. The day will usually start with a morning departure from Langley to Bellingham after flight plans filed the day before through the eAPIS which is done entirely online and part of US Homeland Security. Flying to Bellingham International (KBLI) only takes about 12 minutes from Langley Regional (CYNJ). You're almost literally going from saying goodbye to Langley and picking up Bellingham's ATIS without pause in between. Having HFM so close to home makes it so easy for us to visit them regardless of whether you're going by air or by car. When you land you head immediately to the Customs box and go through the paces...usually a brief process all things considered and especially if you're used to sitting through long lineups in your car.

HFM's hospitality is instant as no sooner are you out of the Customs office when you see Hal Beatty pulling up to your airplane with the tug and a tow bar to get you down the large ramp area to the Museum. Most times when you get there you'll see the usual cast from HFM like Kate, J.R, Erika, Jeff, Greg and Alan along with local pilots like Craig Nelson and Mark Kandianis, both of whom also own North American SNJ's and often participate in Fly Day. Is Orcas Island considered local, Craig?

Flying usually begins around lunchtime and this isn't just a few pilots hopping into their aircraft to put something together on the fly (no pun intended). The whole thing is carefully planned and discussed at length in the pilots briefing which for someone like me are an incredible learning experience. They'll organize the formations, position changes, hand signals, radio calls and other procedures that are vital to a safe flight. This is absolute professionalism by a group of aviators , most of whom have been doing airshows for a number of years and take nothing for granted.

Bill Findlay

Now you're on the ramp walking toward your ride, you get strapped in and soon surrounded by the sound of Pratt & Whitney Radials roaring to life with smoke everywhere! Next you're taxiing out with the group, in the run-up and before you know it...Texan Flight is cleared for takeoff and you're rolling down one-six with another aircraft at your side in a section takeoff.

Section takeoff wth Bill Findlay alongside Craig NelsonGreg Anders

It's hard to describe what it's like the first time you form up with other aircraft, especially historic aircraft like the T-6/SNJ/Harvard. I just try my best to take it in, soak in as much as I can and of course, open the canopy and capture the moments with my camera. I pay attention to the sounds of the engine, the inputs on the stick and pedals and try to anticipate each action as best I can from the back seat. Each flight usually concludes with the group heading in one after another for a solo flypast with a left break over the Museum.
4 of 5 from Texan FlightTexan Flight The debrief after the flight is every bit as interesting. This is where the group will discuss the flight and go over any details or issues they feel need to be addressed in advance of the next sortie.

Pilot debrief out by the aircraft

What I learn and experience is invaluable and each time I get this amazing opportunity I build on the knowledge gained from the time before. I get even more motivated to get through my license so I can start working towards being able to one day sit in the front seat, working on my skills as a formation pilot. Working on my skills alongside great teachers such as those I get to fly with at Heritage Flight Museum and the Canadian Museum of Flight. I'm very fortunate for these experiences and I'm always very aware of it.

Greg Anders in Hog Wild Gunner

The iconic P-51D "Val-Halla"

Something not everyone knows about me is that I've lived about half my 37 years deeply regretting that I never had my chance to join the RCAF and follow in the footsteps of my late Grandfather (Arthur Browne DFC), a Lancaster pilot in WWII. It wasn't because I lacked the talent or the ability, it was just bad timing and a VERY limited number of positions to do this job in Canada at the time. Fly Day's at HFM, more than anything else have been one of the very few things that remove that regret and make me feel like an 18 year old (again) finally getting the chance to live out a dream. I get to fly out there with a good friend in a beautiful vintage warbird, meet a number of amazing, talented people, sit in on briefings, learn the ropes and then hit the sky!! How does volunteering my time, sharing photos, buying oil, filling a gas tank or donating money to the upkeep of an aircraft come close to what I get in return?

I'd like to thank everyone at the Heritage Flight Museum for being as welcoming as they always are when we visit. Whether it's flying from their home in Bellingham or one of the many events they take part of including the one in my backyard, the Abbotsford International Airshow, they always carry themselves with the utmost professionalism and class and do an incredible job representing both themselves and the city of Bellingham, WA wherever they go. It's been a truly great ride and an honor getting to know them!

Until next time, I'll just keep looking at the photos.

keeping up foreign relations

Texan Flight - minus, the photographerTexan Flight

Craig Nelson, Mark Kandianis, Lyle Jansma (photographer), Jeff Geer, Alan Anders, Greg Anders, Bill Findlay 
stand in front of HFM's P-51D "Val-Halla" and behind Lyle and Fracie Jacobson in their '57 Ford Fairlane 500.

]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Alan Anders Anders Bellingham Bill Findlay Canadian Museum of Flight Craig Nelson Greg Anders Harvard Heritage Flight Museum KBLI Mark Kandianis SNJ T-6 Texan Flight Thu, 25 Oct 2012 07:39:25 GMT
Vintage Aircraft Weekend
Friday, Sept 30 2012

Vintage Aircraft Weekend is an event hosted by John Sessions of the Historic Flight Foundation in Everett, WA. This year I had my first chance to attend this incredible gathering with the gang from the Canadian Museum of Flight. 

Our group, representing the Canadian Museum of Flight consisted of Vic Bentley and Jim Beswick in the de Havilland Tiger Moth. George Kirbyson and Bob Fowles in the Waco AQC-6 Cabin and Bill Findlay with myself in the North American Harvard MK IV.

We departed Langley Regional Airport on Friday morning (August, 31) and headed for Bellingham where we'd clear customs and visit with our friends at the Heritage Flight Museum. This leg of the trip is under 15 minutes for the Harvard and Cabin....a little longer for the Moth.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

The next leg of the trip would be about 30 minutes and would land us in Paine Field. The flight over was excellent,  calm air, beautiful skies and the promise of beautiful aircraft on the ground awaiting us.

When you get there you'll know it as it's hard to miss all the new Boeing metal on the ground below!

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App


Once on the ground we were greeted by the very friendly volunteers from the Historic Flight Foundation for pilot check-in and a tug to assist with the parking of the aircraft. Once settled in we walked around the line a bit and eventually boarded a shuttle (provided by HFF)  for the hotel at the other end of the airfield. All checked in we decided it was time to go get lunch so again, a shuttle from the hotel would take us to the beautiful waterfront where we'd grab a bite at Ivar's. I highly recommend this place...excellent staff, great food and an incredible view! 

After a bit of downtime at the hotel the group gathered for a shuttle back to HFF for dinner, music, dancing and camaraderie. The weather was incredible, the food was fantastic and the music was so very enjoyable. I took advantage of the beautiful sunset and blue moon and went down the ramp to photograph some of the remarkable aircraft in attendance.

Such a fantastic and appropriate coincidence that we'd have a blue moon on the day that Neil Armstrong is laid to rest. 

People walking around with their partners or just wandering around on their own looking at aircraft from all walks of life up close and personal. Couples posing for photos in front of the Waco Cabin, a reenactor standing in front of the P-51 and photographers galore snapping off shots of whatever they could before the light went away.

John Sessions beautiful de Havilland Beaver amphib
Bill and Eileen Findlay pose for a photo in front of their Harvard

Val-Halla. The beautiful P-51D belonging to Heritage Flight Museum

Saturday, Sept 1 2012

We woke to sunshine and a pilots briefing at the hotel. Bright and early at 0800 which might have been somewhat difficult for some but to everyone's credit...a full room of professionals on hand, ready to take on the day.

Shuttles would eventually take everyone from the hotel back down to HFF to prepare for the flying events of the day. Soon the field outside the Museum would be packed with cars and the grounds would be crawling with aviation fans young and old. The hill would be covered with photographers eager to claim their spot for the day in hopes of the best line of sight for all the flying demonstrations.

Flying would begin at noon. Fans would see everything from a one of a kind Stinson Model O to a PBY water drop with several vintage aircraft in between such as HFF's Spitfire MK IX, our Waco, Harvard and Moth to name just a few.

John Sessions flying his beautiful Spitfire MK IX A rare chance to see a PBY water drop! HFF
Another treat for the people in attendance would be a 4 ship T-6 formation led by Bud Granley which also included our own Bill Findlay, Bob Jones and Craig Nelson. Fans cheered on every pass as they flew by in different formations showing off their beautiful aircraft paired with their incredible skills as formation pilots.

4-ship T-6 formation - what a great show!
VAW left all of us with a collective smile on our faces and lots of great stories and memories that will no doubt last for a long time. For myself, this was a very unique experience and one I'm extremely grateful I had the chance to have. 

I'd like to thank Mr. Sessions for hosting such a wonderful event, for his above and beyond hospitality and dedication to the preservation of aviation history through his collection and events he's both hosted and been part of. Also big thanks to all the staff and volunteers at Historic Flight Foundation. My first visit to that fine Museum was a great one and I can't wait to return someday!

Mike Luedey


Sorry George...had to do it!

asleep in the hotel lobby


]]> (Yellow Drum Productions) Canadian Museum of Flight Historic Flight Foundation Vintage Aircraft Weekend Thu, 20 Sep 2012 07:13:03 GMT