Jet Team Aerobatics
Following a very successful, and fun, number of years on an operational fighter squadron the time had come for me to be posted to a desk job. It is a normal progression to spend some time in a “staff” position following a flying tour or two, and I was fortunate to have done 11 years straight in the cockpit of a jet. Additionally, I needed to complete a staff tour to be considered for promotion to the next rank. However, I loved flying jets and I was not ready to sit behind a desk for the next 4 years. I knew that I would not be satisfied with any ground job that I would be given. After discussing a way to possibly postpone the inevitable with my Commanding Officer I decided to take a gamble with my career. It was risky, but if I were successful in achieving my goal, I would avoid spending anytime in a ground job while at the same time I would have the honor to serve as a pilot on a very prestigious team.
I decided that life was too short to have any regrets. So I took action and submitted my application to my Air Force’s jet demonstration team, the Snowbirds. The Snowbirds demonstration team is the Canadian version of theUnited States’ Thunderbirds or Blue Angels. This was the second time that I had applied for the chance to tryout for the Snowbird team.
All Air Force pilots who possess the required experience,are allowed to apply for a chance to fly for the Snowbirds. The application process consisted of writing a letter to the Commanding Officer of the Snowbird team. However, my current Commanding Officer and Base Commander had to approve my application before it even made it to the team. Annually, a large number of pilots apply for a chance to fly on the Air Force’s elite demonstration team and I was very fortunate that my file even made it off my base to be submitted to the Snowbirds.
The Snowbirds only select a small number of pilots to attend a flying tryout from all of the applicants whose files make it to the team to be evaluated. Luckily, I had accumulated a great deal of experience by the end of my tour on the F/A 18 Hornet and I believe that my high level of experience played a large part in why I was one of six pilots that were chosen to attend a two-month tryout camp with the team. During my particular tryout year, the team was looking to replace three pilots from the team. It is common practice for the team to invite twice as many pilots than required to partake in the tryout process.
I was informed by my Commanding Officer while on a training exercise inNevadathat I had been selected to tryout for the Snowbird team.
Mixed feelings of excitement and fear came over me as I started to play out the possible outcomes in my mind. Thoughts like My reputation is on the line. What happens if I don’t make the team? started to creep in. I had worked very hard over the years to become a respected Fighter pilot with my peers and I did not want anything to happen that might tarnish my accomplishments. In that moment, I had to force my mind to focus on the positive outcome that I wanted to occur.
I sometimes find it hard not to maximize what others can accomplish, while minimizing what I can accomplish. Even though I have succeeded in accomplishing a large number of things in my life, I have also experienced the pain of failing as well. To this day, the fear of failure still manages to enter my mind on occasion, but I always try to gain control of my thoughts and feelings in those moments; it isn’t always easy to do so. The day that I found out I had a chance to be a Snowbird was no different.