Colonel OB Philp
Colonel Owen Bartley “O.B.” Philp Founder of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Colonel O.B. Philp, “Father of the Snowbirds,” began his career with Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 in Saskatchewan, then flew the Mitchell bomber and Dakota in WWII. He organized the Canadian Army’s first glider pilot school then served years as a test pilot.
The seed for the Snowbirds was firmly planted in 1967 with the formation of the Golden Centennaires to commemorate Canada’s centennial year. Ten RCAF basic jet training aircraft, CT-114 Tutors, received the gold and blue paint scheme which distinguished them as the aircraft from the RCAF formation aerobatic team. However, at the end of the 1967 season, the Centennaires were disbanded, and the aircraft were returned to the training role.
Colonel Philp, the Commanding Officer of the Centennaires, became the Base Commander of CFB Moose Jaw, but he never forgot the team of 1967. He wanted to ensure that the traditions of aerial perfection established by teams such as the Golden Hawks and his own Golden Centennaires would not be lost. Accordingly, he established an unofficial non-aerobatic formation team in Moose Jaw in 1971. The team was made up of volunteer instructor pilots and ground crew led by Major Glen Younghusband. All of the instructors came from Two Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2CFFTS) in Moose Jaw. The team utilized Seven ex-Centennaire Tutor aircraft. Since these aircraft were already repainted white, they were readily distinguishable from the other silver-colored aircraft of the Moose Jaw fleet. The 2CFFTS Formation Team members practiced in the evenings, after completing their primary instructional duties, and performed on weekends. The new team was named the “Snowbirds” as a result of a contest held at the Base Elementary School and first flew under this name at the 1971 Saskatchewan Homecoming Air Show on the 11th of July. This performance was followed by appearances at other major air shows such as Abbotsford, BC and the CNE in Toronto, and also at military bases across Canada. During the show season which lasted from June to the end of August the team performed 27 shows. Public response indicated that the re-forming of a Canadian formation team was a popular move.
431 Air Demonstration Squadron is the result of the dedication and concerted effort of everyone involved with the Snowbirds over the past 31 years.
The Snowbirds’ mission is constant: to demonstrate to the North American public the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the men and women of the Canadian Forces. As the Snowbirds strive for perfection in formation aerobatic flight, they draw upon the spirit and example of those who have served before them.