CANADA'S AERIAL AMBASSADORS
The Royal Canadian Mint is honoured to salute the Snowbirds as they celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2021. 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.
The true significance of the Snowbirds and the legacy they represent can be measured in the hearts and minds of the millions of Canadians who turn their heads skyward year after year to marvel at the team’s grace and precision as they weave their aerial magic across the nation. They continue to be proud ambassadors for the men and women serving in all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces while paying tribute to the thousands of personnel, both military and civilian, who have contributed to their overwhelming success and popularity across North America.
DID YOU KNOW?
• 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 CHILD Foundation (children with intestinal and liver disorders), flying a special show for them every summer.