Residents and tourists visiting the Sea Cavalcade events last weekend were treated to the flying acrobatics of the Fraser Blues, led by 76-year-old aviator George Miller.
The group first appeared when it did a fly over, darting over the harbour and following the parade route Saturday morning. Later that day, another fly-by event was scheduled for the opening ceremonies before the pilots pulled out all the stops along the waterfront on Sunday afternoon.
“These are all fighter pilot background people,” Miller said, describing the challenges that accompany an aerial acrobatic display. “There’s no easy way to do this. Safety is the absolute number one consideration.”
The group operates Navion aircraft, reconditioned 50-year-old planes that came close to seeing combat in the Second World War. After the fighting stopped, the designs for the planes were re-tooled for the consumer market.
The Fraser Blues formed in 2001. Performing more than 35 shows per season, the group claims to be one of the few civilian flying formation teams left in Canada.
The ranks swelled with the addition of Miller’s son, Guy, who joined the list of pilots including Gord Ball, Willie Paterson and Clive Barratt.
“We love this. We don’t ever expect remuneration to offset expenses, that’s not our thing. We do this as a hobby,” he said. “But it’s a serious hobby and it has to be completely regulated.”
The group’s manoeuvres are approved by Transport Canada, but getting the event insured has become an increasingly daunting task.
“It’s not just the air events, it’s people who compete at events are all too likely to sue; it’s just the nature of the thing now,” commented Miller. “It gets volunteers nervous about putting it on … It’s the nature of the industry, we just grow with it.”
In addition to insurance, the pilots undergo regular testing in order to qualify for a joint liaison flight certificate that’s recognized in both the United States and Canada.
The group was expected to perform in Washington, Oregon and Penticton B.C. leading up to their Remembrance Day fly-overs at Legions across the Lower Mainland.
The Fraser Blues hail from Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Nanaimo and Langley.