Air Force Life


Pilot Officer (P/O) John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Air Force planes perform flypasts to mark historical ceremonies or significant days. Every year the Snowbirds aerobatic team conducts a flypast over Parliament Hill on Canada Day. At the annual national Battle of Britain Day Parade, a flypast of vintage aircraft helps to honour and remember the Air Force heroes of the past. A “flyby” is similar but usually just involves a fleeting Air Force presence at events that are less ceremonial in nature — such as community festivals.


The Snowbirds conduct a flypast over Parliament Hill.

The adventure and thrill of aircraft flight was captured in all its glory by Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. A volunteer from the United States, Magee wrote this homage to aviation that is now deemed the Air Force’s poem.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
September 3, 1941