Visit to CFB Comox

On Thursday, April 19 we flew to Canadian Forces Base Comox, home of the Royal Canadian Air Force 19 Wing to see the Snowbirds and the CF-18 Demo aircraft practicing for the 2018 Airshow season. Valerie and I were in the Turbo Arrow GPSE, Steve Stewart and Alistair Beaton were flying the club’s Cessna 172 GGMA and joining us was Cessna 172 FIIU from the Canadian Aviation College in Pitt Meadows flown by two of their students. The visit to CFB Comox was arranged by Alistair Beaton through his connections with the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
With the forecast weather looking good I filed a flight plan on-line with Nav Canada the night before and contacted Comox Wing Operations by telephone to obtain our PPR number (Prior Permission Required) for our planned arrival at 07:30. Flying to a military airport is a little different than normal operations to all the other destinations that we frequent so following all the correct procedures is very important. The flight was uneventful in good smooth VFR conditions, landing straight-in to their 10,000-foot-long runway 30. After taxiing in and parking at our assigned spot we were met by our escort, Capt. Evan Southern, a Cormorant pilot. A big thank you to Captain Southern who took us around Canadian Forces Base Comox, touring 407 Squadron operations and their CP-140 long range patrol aircraft, seeing the Snowbirds and CF-18 practice their 2018 airshow routines and then touring 442 Squadron and their Cormorant helicopter and Buffalo two-engine turboprop aeroplane, their Search and Rescue aircraft.

It was a full practice day for the Snowbirds and CF-18, and practice for me and Valerie with the cameras. We were using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7, a Nikon D90 a with 18-105mm lens, and a Nikon D7100 with an 18-140mm and a 70-300mm lens. The weather had been very good for flying as the high thin overcast gave a bright hazy day, but that gave challenges for good photography. From where we were positioned on the airport, quite a distance from the runway and show line, we were shooting mostly into the sun and since a major part of photography is about lighting, capturing the images was sometimes challenging. Although we had a smooth flight to Comox, the light surface winds at Comox were blowing from the show line directly toward us so that meant the smoke from the Snowbirds lingered above the airport and affected image quality, especially with the backlighting of the sun. The cameras can take care of the technical details with features like auto-exposure and auto-focus so it became somewhat of a practice session for us getting more familiar with all the camera settings, framing and panning.
I hope you enjoy the photos; they are all available on my Facebook page in the album “CFB Comox – 2018”. One special picture is with Lt. Co. Mike French, the Commanding Officer of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (Snowbirds) in front of Snowbird #1 with our Canada Flag that was carried across the country on our Canada 150 journey last summer. For me, that’s a keeper.

There was a full halo around the sun and that usually indicates that you should expect rain within 24 to 48 hours, and sure enough, the possibility of rain was in the forecast for Friday and rain began to fall that afternoon.

When it was time to leave we were expedited on our departure as the CF-18 had already started engines for their afternoon practice. Valerie and I were able to takeoff and we headed to Courtney for fuel, however Steve and Alister, and the two others, were taxiing a couple of minutes behind us and were not permitted to takeoff until the CF-18 had finished its routine. After re-fuelling at Courtney, with the least expensive fuel in the area, we headed back to Abbotsford where we met up with Steve and Alistair for an after-flight “beverage” at the club. It was a wonderful day for all and we are anticipating an exciting and safe 2018 airshow season. We wish the Snowbird Team and the CF-18 Team all the best for 2018 and look forward to seeing them at the Abbotsford International Airshow in August.

Below are a sample of pictures taken.  Click here for the full gallery.

– Bob Leroux

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