For over 20 years, a group of Victoria-based pilots has taken to the skies each Remembrance Day to support veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The group, which flies under the call sign YAK FLIGHT, performed a flyby over Greater Victoria Wednesday, from approximately 10:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
A spokesperson for YAK FLIGHT says their efforts are meant to bring attention to Canada’s military service, and talked with Victoria Buzz on condition of anonymity.
“It’s just a matter of local pilots who are interested in formation flying,” the spokesperson said. “One way of showing our respect for Remembrance Day.”
The group includes pilots from various walks of life — some fly with commercial airlines, others are private professionals — but the spokesperson says they were brought together by a common goal of improving their skills through close formation flying.
YAK FLIGHT’s members have studied for their skillful flybys with instructors including current and former Canadian Forces Snowbirds pilots. They fly a group of five Nanchang CJ-6A trainer aircrafts, and a Yakolev YAK18T from the former USSR.
When they take to the skies in support of veterans, YAK FLIGHT coordinates their plans with local Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons and other government agencies.
“It is coordinated with all the appropriate agencies in terms of air traffic control,” the spokesperson said.
“The air force generally has a helicopter or two in the air, and we’re very careful coordinating with them.”
With COVID-19 restricting Remembrance Day events to the public and older veterans at a higher health risk, YAK FLIGHT debated whether or not they should proceed with their annual flyby.
“As a group, we discussed whether it was appropriate to do the flyby this year,” the spokesperson said.
“We collectively decided it was more important than ever with the pandemic.”
For the members of YAK FLIGHT, demonstrating respect for those who serve in Canada’s military is a top priority.
The spokesperson said most of the pilots have personally lost people serving Canada in the military.
“Whether it is those people or those who served in WW1, WW2, the Korean War or any of the conflicts that Canada has been involved in, Remembrance Day and the flyby is significant to us to be able to remember people, regardless of when or how they passed in the service of Canada.”