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O Canada! Country’s elite fliers soar over Willow Run

The Detroit News

Ypsilanti — The Snowbirds know how to make an entrance.

The seven Canadian Forces jets thundered over Willow Run Airport, looped around the surrounding countryside and came in low in a tight diamond formation.

They landed and rolled in single file before coming to a rest on the tarmac in a wing-tip to wing-tip line.

Their arrival Tuesday was just a taste of what people are in store for during a performance at Wild Wednesday, a one-day air show hosted by the Yankee Air Museum.

The Snowbirds, who are part of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be doing all manner of maneuvers: Canada burst, solo head-on crosses and their signature nine-abreast exit.

“My wife has a question,” Clarkston resident Tom Gernack told the pilots after their arrival: “Are you nuts?”

The pilots chuckled over that one.

But they know a little bit about power and grace.

After all, they’re stationed in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which is just 120 miles from the hometown of Gordie Howe in Saskatoon.

One of the pilots admitted it was no small feat to learn to be a Snowbird.

“It was one of the most challenging things in my life,” said Capt. Greg Hume-Powell, who is a rookie.

He said he first saw the Snowbirds perform when he was 5.

He knew he wanted to be a pilot but didn’t dare dream he might be a Snowbird, who are the best of the best.

Major Steve Reed still pinches himself that he’s a member of the elite force.

“It’s a long shot to be one,” he said.

Asked what he loves the most about it, he said the flying and the traveling. The unit performs all over North America.

This will be the team’s first performance at Willow Run and is just one of 11 performances in the U.S. Another 20 or so are in Canada.

During the hour-long performance, the pilots fly nine CT-114 Tutor jets. They perform just four feet apart and sometimes their wings actually overlap.

The gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the flying begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 if bought online at or $25 at the gate.