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Operation Backup Inspiration to honour CF Snowbirds, 'pick up where they left off'

Last Updated May 18, 2020 at 12:12 pm PDT

The local aviation community is coming together to honour the CF Snowbirds after a deadly crash claimed the life of Captain Jennifer Casey on Sunday. (Courtesy BC General Aviation Association)

Pilots in B.C. have come together to show support for the CF Snowbirds after tragedy struck on Sunday

35 aircraft will fly over the Lower Mainland as part of Operation Backup Inspiration

Snowbirds jet crashed while on a cross-country trip to spread hope during COVID-19 pandemic

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – A group of pilots from B.C.’s Lower Mainland is coming together to pay tribute, hoping to do something to honour Captain Jennifer Casey, who was killed in the CF Snowbirds crash in Kamloops Sunday.

It didn’t take long for the local flying community to ask what they could do in the wake of the tragedy, and in less than a day, dozens of pilots had already signed up to take to the skies in what’s being dubbed Operation Backup Inspiration.

“The response to this has been overwhelming,” the B.C. Aviation website reads, adding the initiative has been restricted to 35 participants in order to keep it safe.

The pilots are expected to take to the skies for an hour-long flight, just in time for the 7:00 p.m. cheer on Monday.

“Aviators, I mean, we are a family, no matter where we are,” Ryan Van Haren, president of the BC General Aviation Association, told NEWS 1130 on Sunday. “It’s been a tough day, but the pilots of British Columbia — recreational, professional, or otherwise — we’ve all decided we want to pick up where the Snowbirds left off.”

The CF Snowbirds were on a cross-country tour as part of Operation Inspiration, aimed at lifting the spirits of Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when the crash happened.

Captain Casey was killed when the plane went down, and the pilot, Captain Richard MacDougall, was seriously hurt.

Van Haren said the crash was another blow to pilots, who have already been suffering during the pandemic.

“Four months ago, we were saying it is the best time we’ve ever seen to become a pilot or get into this industry, and how things change so quickly. It just goes to show, we can’t count our chickens before they hatch, or really ever.”

Those taking part in Operation Backup Inspiration are set to meet at Abbotsford International Airport at 6:00 p.m. The aircraft will then take off one after the other and make a loop, flying all over the Lower Mainland.

“That’s our part as an aviation community, just to pick up where the Snowbirds left off,” Van Haren said.