I was first introduced to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in 2016. My boyfriend was a bit of a warplane nut, and I enjoyed my visit so much, that I decided to purchase us memberships for the following year. We visited on several occasions in 2017, and even had the opportunity to witness the Canada 150 CF-18 Demo jet when it flew in for a summer visit. It was also at CWHM that we learned about the Community Charity Air Show that takes place at Brantford Municipal Airport near the end of August.
So, on a lovely Wednesday morning in August 2017, we arose early and packed our camera gear and lawn chairs in the truck, and set off for Brantford. We liked to arrive early to events, to get good parking and better photo ops, without bazillions of people in them.
So we pulled into the parking field just shy of 2 hours before the gates were to officially open. There were perhaps only 1/2 dozen other vehicles. Right next to us, a mom and dad were unloading their vehicle and putting their days’ supplies, camp chairs, etc into a child’s wagon. The child was watching the skies. Soon, an airplane was spotted flying towards us. The young boy identified it immediately. Impressive! I told him how impressed I was, and another plane flew over. He knew this one too! As I was talking to him and his mom, I found out he was a huge plane buff. Then he excitedly announced that we had just missed the Avro Lancaster flying over. Wow!
As we were walking as a group bonded by aviation towards the airport show grounds, Melinda (the mom) told me that they came every year. I asked where a good spot to sit was, and she informed me that they always sit in front of the Snowbirds. Great spot, I thought! We were invited to sit with them and spent the whole day enjoying the air show together. Melinda even trusted me, a complete stranger, enough to allow me to take her seven year-old son around the static displays. I learned a lot from McKenzie! I also found out that his absolute favourite air show highlight was the CF Snowbirds, and that he wanted to become a Snowbird pilot one day himself.
A wonderful moment happened in the afternoon when the Snowbird pilots were walking through the grounds talking to guests. One of them came over to us, as he had seen McKenzie’s Snowbird T shirt and hat. I was able to get an amazing photo as he sat my new young friend on his lap to talk to him.
Melinda and I became fast friends and kept in touch via Facebook. When the 2018 Community Charity Air Show came around, we made plans to meet again in the parking field and spend the day together.
This was also the first year that Capt. Jenn Casey commentated for the CF-18 Demo Team aerial show. I would hear her voice again later that summer at London’s International Air Show. I had fallen in love with the Canada 150 jet the year before, so now was following this team as well as the Snowbirds.
It’s funny how we develop connections to different things. We find out (almost to our own surprise sometimes) that we enjoy certain activities or events. Like air shows. They thrill and excite us. We feel connected to the performers. And we meet people we normally wouldn’t otherwise.
A week ago today, one of our beloved Snowbird personalities lost her life in the tragic accident in Kamloops. I know that Melinda, McKenzie and I all felt the loss on a deep level. We followed the news and social media stories together. We shared our thoughts and tears with each other. We are grieving along with the rest of Canada.
A few days ago, I saw a beautiful video by an air show videographer from Brantford. It was a tribute to Captain Jenn Casey. I was absolutely thrilled to see McKenzie in this video, and immediately shared it with Melinda. Now I’m going to share it here for everyone to see. It is my tribute, not only to Capt. Casey, but to my wonderful friends whom I would never have had the honour to meet and know, had it not been for that early morning air show adventure, and a young boy’s joyous enthusiasm for aviation, fuelled in part by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. I respectfully ask my Canadian friends to wear your CF Snowbird swag today. Or, if you don’t have any, wear red and white, the colours of Canada’s favourite high-flying ‘Birds and Heaven’s new angel. RIP Captain Jennifer Casey.
Jenn Casey Tribute Video by videographer Roger Duck on YouTube
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