On Thursday afternoon, shortly after it was announced they would be flying over town a day in advance, people hurriedly gathered along Woodland Drive to catch a glimpse of the Snowbirds.
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s precision-flying team appeared around 4:30 p.m. from the north side of town, flying in perfect unison and banking around Mackenzie Place highrise without a hitch. They disappeared a few seconds later,leaving long contrails behind them. On Friday at 11 a.m., the CP-140 Aurora, a massive, $25-million aircraft used for a variety of missions over land and water, flew over Hay River in a deafening display that even outmatched the noisy pile driver at the fire hall construction project.
Two representatives of the Royal Canadian Air Force were on hand at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre on Friday to answer questions about Operation Northern Reach.
“Essentially it is the government of Canada’s expression of its policy for the North,” said Capt. Daragh McDonnell. “As the ice recedes up North and there is more economic activity, sovereignty issues suddenly become more important.”
Economic activity in both the NWT, Nunavut and the Yukon is expanding rapidly, such as many developments in the mining industries. As the waters open up and new fishing stocks become available, it is important to monitor and police the areas and that is where the CP-140 Aurora’s long-range capabilities become important, explained McDonnell.
Five major air shows are planned in both territories over a two-week stretch, with smaller air displays planned for more remote communities.
The biggest show was reserved for Yellowknife over the weekend, where more than 100 airplanes were on display at its annual air show. Operation Northern Reach is also making stops in Inuvik, Whitehorse and Watson Lake, Yukon.
The Snowbirds, which are in their 42nd season, will be touring North America until October.
By Myles Dolphin