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

Dooris Raad was last seen in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood on June 7. (Surrey RCMP photo)
(James Smith photo)
North Delta crime beat, week of May 31

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

The Lower Mainland Green Team and students from Earl Marriott Secondary remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Green Team returns to White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park to monitor previous work

Environmental volunteers, South Surrey students remove invasive species

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

Friends of Bear Creek Park held a ‘yellow-ribbon event’ on Saturday (June 12, 2021), with protesters at 84th Avenue and King George Boulevard and 84th Avenue and 140th Street. People were asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard “to celebrate and to show support for our trees in Bear Creek Park.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Protesters hold ‘yellow-ribbon’ event at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

People asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard to ‘show support for our trees’

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

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

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read