The CF Snowbirds in action. (Erin Haluschak photo)

The CF Snowbirds in action. (Erin Haluschak photo)

Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

It’s a kind of homecoming for Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds team as the pilot behind Snowbird 2 returns to his home province.

Mahajan, who joined the forces in 2016 and graduated as a pilot one year later, began flying shortly after high school near his home in Delta at the Boundary Bay Airport.

Mahajan was born in Chandigarh, India and moved to Canada when he was seven years old. His career from earning his private pilot’s licence in Delta to becoming a Snowbirds pilot and training over the skies in the Comox Valley was a relatively quick trajectory.

RELATED: Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in the Comox Valley in more than 2 years

“Historically, you usually do a tour or two before coming to the (Snowbirds) squadron, to make sure you have enough experience to do the job,” he explained following a training session earlier this month. “I was at the right place at the right time – I was offered the opportunity to come to the squadron as a junior pilot after getting my wings.”

Mahajan gained experience quickly, first as a utility pilot and then a co-ordinator on the team. Initially, he would ferry jets, deliver parts and exchange planes, gaining experience wherever he could. This is his first year as a Snowbird 2 (inner right wing), but flying over B.C. brings back memories of growing up in the Lower Mainland.

“There are tons of mountains and cools things to fly over. I did some flying in the Interior over Kelowna. I love Comox, but I grew up in the Lower Mainland and that’s where my heart is.”

Although it is his first year as a single-digit pilot, Mahajan was on the team last year to take part in Operation Inspiration – the Snowbirds’ 2020 cross-country salute to Canadians doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19. The operation ended tragically a year ago in Kamloops as a plane carrying Capt. Jennifer Casey, the team’s public affairs officer and pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall crashed in a residential area, killing Casey and injuring MacDougall.

Mahajan said while the operation ended with a tragic event, he believes the team is now in a good position to return to the skies, inspire people and provide hope and happiness through airshows.

“It’s obviously different but special. With Operation Inspiration, personally, I was unsure going into it how it was going to be perceived by the public. After doing flights across Canada and getting the reception we got … based on what I saw there, I think it is a very special year to be with this team. I hope we can have the same impact as we had last year.”

The team is honouring Casey’s memory in a variety of ways, he added. There will be something special painted on their jets and helmets in her memory and the team will be using the theme to Star Wars – of which Casey was a huge fan – in their shows.

Returning to Kamloops earlier this month while en route to Comox was a special moment not only for him but the entire team.

“Once we landed, you could see people along the fences (of the airport) – the firefighters were lined up. Above all else, it was good just to be back and show that we’re not fearful of being back, and we’re back on the road for what we do best.”

The Snowbirds will conduct their annual spring training in the Comox Valley until May 26.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Ken Lucks is retiring from his post as principal of Mile 108 Elementary, following a 32-year career with the district. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Mile 108 principal bids farewell

Ken Lucks retiring after 32-year career in education

The graduating class of 2021 from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
PHOTOS: 2021 Grads enjoy reverse grad parade in Centennial Park

Around 75 of the 90 grads showed up too the park

Miguel and Krista Vieira are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their girls Makayla, left, and Hanna. (Mandy McLelland Photography - submitted).
70 Mile General Store owners moving on

Change comes after 34 years in the family

Jenna Harvey. (Photo submitted)
RCMP looking for missing woman between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake

Jenna Harvey was last heard from a week ago and claimed to be hitchhiking north

Hunter Wilson makes a break while playing pool with Tammy Mikkelsen at the Raven Youth Activity Centre. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Raven Youth Centre reopens doors

Centre has undergone some major changes

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read