Soaring with the Snowbirds: From Air Cadets to Canada’s iconic aerobatics team
From the Arctic Circle to central Mexico, Canada’s aerial ambassadors have been captivating crowds all over North America for the past 50 years. More than 150 million spectators have seen the CF Snowbirds perform live at over 2,700 official airshows in 380 different towns and cities. Hundreds more fly-pasts have wowed audiences at major outdoor events – from Canada Day on Parliament Hill to the Olympics and the Grey Cup.
If you’ve been lucky enough to experience their awe-inspiring aerobatics, you know the Snowbirds are world-renowned for the precision and grace of their thrilling shows. But do you know how members of the Canadian Forces become Snowbirds pilots? We connected with Snowbird 1 Team Lead, Major Jean-François Dupont, to learn how he joined Canada’s iconic aerial squadron.
As a young boy in Quebec City, QC, Major Dupont had dreams of becoming a pilot. He obtained his glider pilot license while in the Air Cadets and promptly joined the Canadian Forces. After graduating from Royal Military College, he commenced pilot training where he would receive his military pilot wings on the CT-155 Hawk. He was then posted to 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School as a qualified flying instructor on the CT-156 Harvard II. From there, he set his sights on the CF Snowbirds.
“As an instructor, I saw the Snowbirds flying every day. Many of my friends started making the team, so I thought this would be an amazing opportunity early in my career,” explains Major Dupont.
And that opportunity did not disappoint. Major Dupont made the team and was selected as Snowbird 2, inner right wing position, with the CF Snowbirds. He performed three full seasons with the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron — the team’s official designation — from 2010 through 2012.
Major Dupont then undertook helicopter training and was eventually posted in Comox, British Columbia to the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron. There, he carried out numerous sea and land rescues in the beautiful, but very challenging terrain. After four years in BC, he returned to the CF Snowbirds where he now flies as Snowbird 1 and Team Lead.
“It’s a great honour to be representing the Canadian Forces and leading this team of exceptional pilots and technicians. Meeting Canadians and inspiring young people is my favourite part of this job.”
The CF Snowbirds have a full flying schedule ahead of them to celebrate their 50th year of airshows and Major Dupont is proud to be part of it.
“It’s very exciting to be celebrating our 50th anniversary with Canadians from coast to coast!”
The Royal Canadian Mint is honoured to salute the entire CF Snowbirds squadron with this stunning tribute to this momentous season. The piece pictured below features a view of their signature formation, the nine-plane Big Diamond, and is crafted with fine silver.