Captain Patrick “Paco” Gobeil, pilot of the 2012 CF-18 Demonstration Hornet, added to his list of accomplishments over the Labour Day weekend when he flew aerial demonstrations at two separate air shows in two nations in a continuous flight.
“This was a first for us, so it was very important to make it all work,” said Capt Bruce Ehmann, special events coordinator at 1 Canadian Air Division, Winnipeg.
Operating within a mere two-hour window, and with the assistance of a CC-130H Hercules tanker from 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man., Capt Gobeil represented the Canadian Forces in Toronto and Cleveland, Ohio, during a single flight. And he did it three days in a row.
The team started planning for the unique flight back in December 2011.
“There were a great deal of moving parts in the plan, as we had to balance the demonstrations with operational requirements,” explained Capt Ehmann. “Even with all of our thorough planning and coordination, in the end weather and aircraft serviceability were the two biggest factors affecting our ability to support both [air shows] at the same time.”
To everyone’s delight, it worked beautifully.
Capt Gobeil carried out two demonstrations in each location: his normal tactical CF-18 demonstration and a simulated air-to-air refuelling demonstration. Enthusiastic fans from both Toronto and Cleveland took to the team’s Facebook page to share photos from the weekend’s performances, with both the tactical and refuelling demonstrations drawing rave reviews.
After Capt Gobeil left the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto, his CF-18 was refuelled over Lake Ontario to give him the 17,800 pounds of fuel he needed to fly to the Cleveland National Air Show and perform both demos all over again. He then refuelled again during the flight back to Toronto.
Performing just the CF-18 tactical demonstration, even once a day, is a very demanding task that challenges Capt Gobeil, both physically and mentally.
“Flying the demo is very intense on Gs; however, at this stage of the season I have built up my tolerance to the point where I could do both shows back-to-back,” he said.
“I was pretty tired afterwards, but at the same time I was truly excited about flying those two shows,” he continued. “The effort was all worth it because it was a very special opportunity to increase the visibility of the CF-18 Demo Team and the RCAF with our friends south of the border.”
The CF-18 National Demonstration Team personifies the excellence required to keep the Royal Canadian Air Force among the best aviation organizations in the world. The expertise and dedication required by the team, from the pilot to the maintenance crews to the coordinators, reflects the professionalism of all of Canada's airmen and airwomen.