The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will have a new Team Lead heading into the 2024 show season.
Major Brett Parker recently handed the reigns of Snowbird 1 over to Major Brent Handy, of Wyevale, Ontario. Parker will be returning to his home province of Alberta to continue his military career in Cold Lake.
"I'm really excited to be here in this position this year," said Handy. "It's been an exciting year for the RCAF. It's the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). I'm particularly honoured to be part of that celebration for next year. I'm just really excited to have my team to work with. We have a big legacy to carry."
Handy started flying gliders at the age of 17. After graduating from Sault College's Aviation Technology program, he enrolled in the RCAF where he served as a CF-18 fighter pilot and Hawk instructor pilot before being selected to fly as Opposing Solo for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds in 2012/13.
Handy has been involved with the Snowbirds off and on since 2011. He talked about his focus heading into the 2024 show season.
"The Snowbirds is one of these groups where you don't need to reinvent the wheel to really blow people's hair back," he remarked. "My focus is to do our job as consistently and as safely as we can and if we can just do what the team has done for the last 53 years, I'd say we're doing a pretty good job of that. Keeping safe, keeping everybody well rested, and operating at the best of their capacity is what we're looking for."
For Handy, becoming a Snowbirds pilot is not something that he would have ever predicted. As a child, he wanted to become a fighter pilot.
"Most kids who grew up in the 80s remember seeing Top Gun, the original version, I was no different than anyone else. I grew up near a small municipal airport in Ontario, very small town and I didn't know any pilots. We had no family background in aviation or anything like that. It seemed a little bit out of reach for me. It seemed like a pretty lofty goal. I had a really awesome family who was always very supportive of my crazy dreams and I just kind of inched forward, bit by bit each summer getting a little bit closer to those dreams and here we are."
After a short stint with the Snowbirds in the early 2010s, Handy became one of the founding members of the Northern Stars Aeroteam based out of the Huronia Reginal Airport in Tiny Township in south-central Ontario.
"Sometimes in the military, when we get into the routine of our day-to-day, we can lose sight of how amazing the things that we're doing actually are, and being out on the airshow circuit kind of revitalized my interest in grass routes aviation," he explained.
Handy has been training on the Harvard II for the past couple of years. He has been at 15 Wing Moose Jaw since August getting ready to take on the Team Lead position, getting requalified on the CT-114 Tutor, and getting to know his team members.
"We're all champing at the bit to get training. A lot of people in the general public don't realize that the winter is not in fact a slow season for us, that's our high-tempo season. We're flying at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day through the winter to build up that foundation of experience so that when they go on the road, we can show off the best in the Air Force."
Handy has roughly 5,500 hours in the air as a pilot, 4,500 of those as a military pilot, and 1,000 in smaller planes such as the Pitts Special.
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