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Snowbirds Accidental Deaths

Heroes Remember

Snowbirds Accidental Deaths

The Snowbirds had run into a bit of difficulty. They'd had a few accidents and one of the things they felt was that the average age of the Snowbirds was getting lower and lower every year. So a friend of mine asked if I would come out to the Snowbirds to be the Deputy Commanding Officer basically who is, on any squadron, is the disciplinarian, he takes care of all the discipline problems. And I went out for to bring some maturity to the team basically. I was considerably older than the other members of the team and what turned out to be another interesting fact was that one of the leaders while I was there was my former student. So I went out and became part of the Snowbirds. While I was there we managed to have an accident free season. I mentioned before that it wasn't quite as fruitful for the Thunder Birds or the Blue Angels and I attended a number of funerals in my years with the Snowbirds, attending funerals of the Thunder Birds and the Blue Angels and it was, each time it was very, very difficult because you got to know the people of the teams. It was like a fraternity and we did air shows together, we partied together, we hosted them, they hosted us. There was a real friendly rivalry and it was just devastating to see some of these people be killed on tour. More devastating to go to the funerals and something that I'll never forget as long as I live is the missing man formation where at a funeral they will fly a formation by and when they get to the site, the viewing site, one of the aircraft will pull straight up and then the formation proceeds with that blank space in it and that is part of the military tradition.

Mr. Peters discusses the collective sense of loss felt by the aerobatics pilot fraternity after a tragedy, and then describes the “Missing Man” formation.

Walter Peters

Walter Peters, the youngest of six children, was born in Litchfield, Nova Scotia in 1937. A graduate of Mount Allison University, he worked for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force at age twenty-four and entering pilot training. After receiving his commission and wings, Mr. Peters enjoyed a distinguished career on many levels. He was Canada’s first black jet fighter pilot and an A1 flying instructor. He was involved in the development of the Snowbirds and later flew with them. At Trenton, Mr. Peters piloted Hercules cargo aircraft on assorted missions around the globe, and it was here that he also became the Canadian Armed Forces’ first Human Rights Officer. As advisor to the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Peters offered advice on the tactical movement of troops by air, and analysed and briefed the Council after the Russian shootdown of a Korean civilian jet in 1983. He retired holding the rank of Major.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Walter Peters
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Air Force

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