Captain Patrick “Paco” Gobeil is starting to develop a reputation. For the past three air shows – the entire season to date, actually - horrible weather has threatened to ground his performances with the CF-18 Demo Team. Yet somehow, mere minutes before the scheduled show time, the clouds have parted and inclement weather has cleared allowing him to deliver his program. With Paco climbing into the cockpit of the 2012 True North, Strong and Free demo Hornet, the skies have consistently managed to find a way of clearing for the talented pilot.
This past weekend, the CF-18 demonstration team opened its Canadian air show season at the Waterloo Air Show between June 2 and 3. Of special note, the event also marked the first time this season when all three of the Canadian Forces demonstration teams - the Snowbirds, the SkyHawks and the CF-18 Demo Team – assembled at the same venue to deliver amazing performances for air show enthusiasts in the southern Ontario region.
Practices on Friday were cancelled due to high winds and driving rain, and both Saturday and Sunday started out similarly; however by the time each afternoon arrived, the rain stopped and the low ceiling began to lift a bit. As Paco taxied out to the runway past waving spectators as the show’s opening act, it was clear the day was going to be a great one after all.
“Unfortunately, I was only able to do low [altitude] shows, but for a short time there today I found a large patch of blue and I thought I could turn the program into a high one,” said Paco on Sunday. “But by the time I was able to finish the vertical roll, I was back in the clouds. It’s great to be able to perform the manoeuvre, but if I can no longer see the ground below, I know the crowd can’t see me either, and so I had to go back to a low show.”
Despite the lack of blue skies that would have allowed for a high show this weekend, the crowds were not disappointed with what Captain Gobeil still had to offer: a thrilling program with all the CF18’s trademark manoeuvres that audiences have come to love and anticipate, including the dirty roll on take-off, double 540 rolls and of course, the always impressive High Alpha Pass. Simulated air-to-ground attacks, made realistic by live pyrotechnic displays thanks to April Zalesky’s team at AV8FX, were also crowd favourites as spectators were able to listen in live to the cockpit as Captain Gobeil engaged his targets.
The Waterloo show is the first of 15 Canadian shows for the 2012 CF-18 Demo Team, which moves on to Canadian Forces Base Borden’s Canadian Forces Day and Air Show event on June 9 and 10. And while it would be nice to see Paco keep this interesting reputation going, clear blue skies from the outset will always be preferred. Keeping our fingers crossed!