snowbirds

The Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds touched down in Penticton Thursday morning for a quick refuel en route to their Boundary Bay show.

If you blinked you might have missed them – but you definitely would have heard them.

Planes 10 and 11 of the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds touched down in Penticton shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday en route to their Boundary Bay show, but not before putting on a quick show above the city.

The planes parked on the Penticton Regional Airport tarmac to refuel and wait for the nine others, who were roughly two hours behind.

Plane 10 Capt. Arpit Mahajan said the group is excited to be returning to Penticton on Aug. 7 for the Peach Festival.

“Being a B.C. boy, any B.C. shows I’m personally very excited about, but I know the team is very happy to be returning to Penticton,” he said.

Mahajan hails from Delta, having received his pilot licence and completed much of his training there.

The Snowbirds’ last show in 2017 was scaled back due to reduced visibility from wildfire smoke. But even on clear days, Mahajan said, Penticton’s terrain has always made it one of the more challenging locations in which to perform.

“Penticton offers a unique challenge because … we’re inside a valley. When we’re inside the (show) box, obviously there’s no issue, but when we’re out of it and repositioning, I think the pilots have to have … the hills in their cross-checks,” he said.

Mahajan said pilots take to the skies two times a day on weekdays to practice the same routine. Planes’ wings are most often only about a metre apart from one another, and the planes can reach speeds of over 700 kilometres per hour.

“You end up flying 100 to 120 or 130 flights before we hit the show season. We have to do the same thing over and over again, so that old saying practice makes perfect. You get used to it,” he said.

Co-chair of the Peachfest Snowbirds Committee Fred Trainor said Wednesday the planes don’t typically touch down in Penticton before the event, making Thursday’s sighting a rare, but delightful, occurrence.