Today was National Aviation Day, career day and the first anniversary of Auntie Janice's Humpty Dumpty impression. We ignored the last milestone...
The Aviation Museum opened their new wing to celebrate and we got to meet some of the Snowbird pilots and technicians. We being Grandma J, Angie, Erika, Maria, Elizabeth and me! Janice was there too but she had to work or something, much to Erika's disgust.
The Snowbird Commanding Officer LCol Maryse Carmichael personally gave Elizabeth a sticker of the Snowbirds crest to put on her sweater. Elizabeth was very proud. I don't know why, but I was surprised to learn that the Snowbirds are part of the Canadian Armed Forces. Equally surprising was the fact that there are female Snowbirds! Although thinking about it I have no idea why I would have thought they were all men.
I forgot to bring Elizabeth's stroller, so the three girls had to share Maria's stroller. Elizabeth was particularly keen on having her turn last as long as possible. We stopped to watch a video of an early airplane taking off and all three girls were fascinated. Elizabeth's attention waned before anyone else's and the next thing I knew she had charged off with Maria's stroller and nearly mowed down another visitor!
We paid a visit to the nicely soundproofed RCAF Hall of tribute. Erika and Elizabeth chased each other around and around and around. At one point the girls decided to pretend they were babies crawling around on the floor. Maria gamely walked around chasing, but you could tell she thought the crawling was just silly. If she could talk, she would have told them that she's spent a long time figuring out how to walk so that she could be just like them and she was NOT about to start crawling again. Pretty hilarious!
Later we got to talk to an enthusiastic Aviation Technician Marc Frenette/Price who told us all about being in the Snowbird squadron. Apparently flying is very noisy (he'd be deaf without the ear protection) and uncomfortable (because they have to sit on their gear). He specializes in safety equipment, checking over parachutes and ejection seats and the like. He obviously loves his job, even if the hours can be long.
I can't remember exactly what he said, but he made some comment about how the Snowbirds have special holes in the cockpit (or engine?) that allow them to rapidly change the pressure. And that it's a myth that holes in the cockpit lead to sucking people out into space. There are nine airplanes that fly in a show, but actually eleven in the fleet. Two of the airplanes fly ahead to venues to get things ready. I'm not quite clear on how often this happens, but apparently if one of the airplanes is unable to fly for some reason, they fly the replacement back to Moose Jaw to repaint the airplane with the broken airplane's number and pilot's name.
It only takes three hours to fly from Ottawa to Moose Jaw in the Tutor, but they have to refuel twice. Since each stop requires about an hour the whole trip pretty much doubles. Sometimes refuelling is very tricky. The manoeuvring required to refuel nine large airplanes off a single gas pump in a tiny airport sounded like it would be worth watching! They often have tight deadlines. Marc told us about a problem they had when flying over 150 cities for the 150th anniversary of Canadian flight. They landed in the prairies at a single gas pump airport and the pump quit after the first thirty seconds. They were nervously wondering whether they'd have to spend the night when the gas pump was finally repaired. (Snowbirds don't usually fly at night.) In the end I guess they didn't get to fly over quite as many cities as they had hoped, although I gather they did manage to pass at least 150!