The Royal Canadian Mint salute’s the Snowbirds as they celebrate their 50th consecutive airshow season across North America. Formed in 1971 to demonstrate the skill, professionalism and teamwork inherent in the Canadian Forces, the Snowbirds carry on a proud tradition of aerial excellence that dates back to the early years of powered flight in Canada. Their eminent predecessors include aerobatic teams such as the Royal Canadian Air Force's (RCAF’s) first official aerobatic team in 1929, the Siskins, followed by many others including the Blue Devils, Sky Lancers, Red Knight, Golden Hawks and Golden Centennaires to name a few. In the post war years prior to unification in 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also formed several aerobatic teams including the Seafire Exhibition Flight and Grey Ghosts. Mintage is limited to 100,000. HST/GST exempt.
The coin’s reverse was designed by Canadian graphic artist Dave O’Malley and features the unique “speedbird” design that has graced the bottom of the Snowbird Tutors since a new paint scheme was introduced in 1974. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt with “ELIZABETH II”, “D·G·REGINA” and “5 DOLLARS” engraved along the outer edge. Historical text and production liaison were provided by former Snowbird commanding officer and team leader Dan Dempsey.
The genesis of the Snowbirds took place in early 1971 when the Base Commander of CFB Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Colonel O.B. Philp, decided to form a seven-plane airshow team to carry on the legacy of the Golden Centennaires which he had commanded in 1967 during Canada’s Centennial Year. Initially flown by instructors at 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, the team expanded to nine aircraft in 1972 and soon competitive tryouts were held for pilot volunteers from across Canada, such was the popularity of the new team. The Snowbirds were granted permanent status as a new squadron in the Canadian Forces on April 1, 1978 when they officially became known as 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron.
Snowbirds pilots are all volunteers, as are the majority of the squadron’s technicians and support staff. Competitive flying tryouts are carried out each year to select new team pilots, with half of the team normally changing each year. Over the years, squadron members have represented every province in Canada and all of Canada’s services – the RCAF, RCN, Canadian Army and the Reserves.
Over 150 million spectators across North America have watched a live performance by the Snowbirds over the last 50 years in some 2,700 official airshows at 380 different towns and cities. Hundreds more flypasts have been flown at every major outdoor event in Canada – from Canada Day on Parliament Hill to the Olympics to the Grey Cup.
During their typical six-month airshow season, Snowbirds team members will attend three to four public relations events per week, signing thousands of autographs over the course of the season. The team has a long-established tradition of never leaving an autograph session until every person has received a signed brochure. As role models for the youth of Canada, they have proven particularly adept at motivating and inspiring children through school and hospital visits, encouraging them to stay in school, avoid drugs and pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. The Snowbirds are official ambassadors for the C.H.I.L.D. Foundation (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders), flying a special show for them every summer.
Credit: Coin design was inspired by a photograph taken by Canadian aviation photographer and publisher Mike Reyno. Project initiative and production liaison were provided by former Snowbird commander and team leader Dan Dempsey