Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Snowbirds honor Team Malmstrom

by Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, 341st Space Wing Public Affairs

6/1/2007 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The Canadian Forces Snowbirds departed Great Falls at 12:45 p.m. June 1 in their distinctive red-and-white jets to return to 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The team's CT-114 Tutor jets had remained in Great Falls following the team's departure May 21. Maj. Gen. Charles Bouchard, 1 Canadian Air Division commander, and Canadian Forces Flight Safety confirmed May 31 that the aircraft were ready for flight.

The Snowbirds flew over Malmstrom's runway as they left Great Falls, to thank the base for support provided to the team since the crash that claimed the life of Snowbird 2, Capt. Shawn McCaughey, during a rehearsal performance over Malmstrom May 18.

"It's a symbolic flight," said Lt. Petra Smith, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Public Affairs. "The team will fly in an eight-ship formation over the base to express our gratitude for all of the base's support. We will remember the outstanding support we received here and are very thankful for it."

The team's unique performances showcase nine Tutor jets flying precision formation maneuvers; the june 1 formation was the first time the team had flown since the crash May 18.

"Today's fly-over was poignant," said Col. Sandra Finan, 341st Space Wing commander. "It was a tribute to the connection between Malmstrom and the Snowbirds." Members of Team Malmstrom watched the formation from locations across the base.

Tthe team also visited the Montana Veterans Memorial May 31, where a tile bearing Captain McCaughey's name and a maple tree were placed in his honor shortly after the accident. The tile and the tree were donated by individuals living in Great Falls.

"The tile and tree at the Veterans Memorial were a particularly touching gesture," said Lieutenant Smith. "The team paid their respects and took pictures to show Shawn's family and fiance." The Snowbirds also flew over the memorial as they departed Great Falls.

The team planned to arrive in Moose Jaw in formation as well, the first step in returning to their 2007 season, which they will dedicate to the fallen Captain. The team's first performance is scheduled for June 20 in Owen Sound, Ontario.