The Snowbirds are grounded … again. You know about the Snowbirds? Those guys who turn up at air shows in their 40-plus-year-old jets expected to perform crowd-pleasing, death-defying manoeuvres?
Except they don’t always defy death. At least seven brave pilots have died since the Snowbirds started flying back in 1971, and as the planes get longer in the tooth, the threat of fatal mechanical failure is greater than ever.
And they don’t always fly. The fleet of 20 Tutor CT-114 jets has had a permanent maintenance crew assigned to them since 2001, but that hasn’t prevented the latest problem with the jet’s ejection seat.
So they’re grounded and, as I write, may not be ready for the big flypast on Parliament Hill on July 1. Not that you’ll notice. The flypast takes about as long as it takes a politician to clear his or her throat.
Ahem. I’ve got to ask: How long are we going to keep this nonsense up?
The program costs $10 million a year, which is a spit in the bucket in a country where we seem required to have a $300-million election at least as often as a flypast, but the real cost is in human lives.
And what’s the point? Why are we making these people take enormous risks in ridiculously outdated technology? It’s like having a team of precision gondoliers or acrobatic shepherds, only more dangerous.
Quaint, but deadly.
Maybe if they were flying around in cool, state-of-the-art technology, I could understand, but these guys are in the airborne equivalent of a 1965 Chrysler. And how many vintage Chryslers do you see on the road, never mind in the air?
These things are so obsolete, every year another component becomes impossible to repair.
Maintenance crews have started salvaging dials and tubes from other obsolete Canadian aircraft such as the decommissioned Hercules and sticking them on the Tutors.
Meanwhile, Canadians are busy getting blown up in Absurdistan. Our forces need all the help they can get, but instead they are hobbled with outdated, obsolete aircraft and ground equipment. If anything, the Snowbirds are an ironic emblem of the government’s failure to adequately equip the people we insist on putting in harm’s way.
The government is seriously thinking about keeping these guys in the air until 2020, when no amount of chewing gum and binder twine will keep them airborne.
I, for one, hope they stay grounded. But I must be a communist or some other kind of subversive. But I don’t mind — it’s safer than being a precision gondolier.