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

St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Police are asking opponents of logging near Port Renfrew not to involve their children following additional arrests Saturday. (Black Press Media File)
Police arrest eight protesters including two minors near Port Renfrew Saturday

RCMP ask parents not to involve their children in Fairy Creek logging protests

Future grads at Oak Bay High will have greater scholarship opportunities available through the Oak Bay Rotary Club. (Black Press Media file photo)
Private donor quadruples donations to Oak Bay Rotary scholarship funds

The club has awarded more than $25,000 to Oak Bay High students

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read