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'Seemed like such a far off dream': Scottish-born pilot flying first shows with Snowbirds
Published Friday, May 10, 2019 6:07PM CST
Last Updated Friday, May 10, 2019 6:35PM CST
When Captain Stephen McKeen first came to Canada from his native Scotland five years ago, it didn’t take long for him to see the Snowbirds take flight – now, he’s joined them as a pilot.
Captain McKeen is an experienced airman, serving 10 years in the Royal Navy and continued his career in Canada as an instructor at 15 Wing Moose Jaw.
Now a Canadian citizen – he and his family live in the military housing across from the base: a prime location to see the Snowbirds in action.
“We can look out our window and see the practices,” Captain McKeen said. “So that was an inspiration for sure.”
After years of inspiration, he decided to try out to fly a Snowbird himself.
McKeen made the team and is now in his first run of shows as a snowbird pilot, one of the first of which happening Friday at the air base.
It’s something McKeen says he couldn’t picture when he first crossed the pond.
“It just seemed like such a far off dream at that point,” McKeen said. “You kind of take one step at a time when you move to a new country and a new job and you see how it goes, but it’s wonderful to be a member of this illustrious dream.”
There are four new pilots on the Snowbirds team this year including Captain McKeen, who’s also the only non-Canadian-born pilot for 2019.
Major Denis Bandet, Snowbirds Team Lead, says having McKeen flying with them is a good reflection of what it’s like working in the Canadian Forces.
“Throughout our Canadian Armed Forces, we have people who have joined us from other countries, especially a Commonwealth country that’s a pretty easy one to fit in,” Major Bandet said.
Captain McKeen has flown plenty of aircraft over his career, but it’s a highlight to be a Snowbird.
“You get to demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork of the Canadian Forces as a whole,” McKeen said.
Although Friday’s performance was cut short by inclement weather, it’s not the only opportunity for the Snowbirds to perform in Moose Jaw, as the team will be part of an air show there in July.