British Columbia

'In love with aviation': Local Snowbird takes flight at Abbotsford Airshow

Capt. Greg Hume-Powell is preparing to fly for the last time in the airshow he says shaped the course of his life.

Capt. Greg Hume-Powell to end Snowbirds tour after 2018 season

"This show has set the course for my life, so coming here to fly in it has been a dream come true for me." (Jennifer Wilson CBC News)

Capt. Greg Hume-Powell is preparing to fly for the last time in the airshow he says shaped his career.

Born and raised in West Vancouver, Hume-Powell first attended the Abbotsford International Airshow when he was three years old.

"[It] has been where I fell in love with aviation," he said. 

Hume-Powell returns to regular service in 2019 after three years as a Snowbird demonstration pilot.

"This show has set the course for my life, so coming here to fly in it has been a dream come true for me."

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds air demonstration squadron flies in the 2018 Abbotsford International Airshow alongside the U.S. Navy Blue Angels  Aug. 10-12.

Hume-Powell, who has been an air force pilot since 2003, will end his Snowbirds tour at the end of the 2018 season, making this demonstration his final performance in home airspace.

Healthy dose of competition

The Blue Angels are joining the Snowbirds at the Abbotsford show for the first time since 2003, but the two squadrons train together regularly and maintain a friendly relationship, injected with a healthy dose of competition, according to Hume-Powell.

He said one of the Snowbird's signature moves is called line abreast during which jet pilots cross each other's paths and fly very close to one another.

He said the Snowbirds had the edge on this move over the Blue Angels.

"The Blues do a five-plane line abreast loop but they're not good enough to do a roll. We do a roll too." 

Snowbird life has its challenges

Flying a jet takes its toll on a pilot's body, according to Hume-Powell,

He said the gravitational force, or G-force, that his jet exerts on his body during acceleration causes his 200-pound body to feel as though it weighs 1,400 pounds in flight.

"It feels very, very heavy," he said.

"We have to strain our lower extremities to keep the blood up toward our brain, but you get used to it after a while." 

Pilots work out at the gym before demonstrations to prepare. The morning briefing allows the squadrons to discuss their routines, the weather, and exit routes.

The Snowbirds and Blue Angels gather for a pre-flight briefing. (Jennifer Wilson CBC News)

Hume-Powell is the only B.C. pilot in the 2018 demonstration squad.

He says his family will be in attendance as he flies lead solo for the last time in what he calls, "the best airshow on the planet."