COLUMBIA — The SkyHawks, the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, have been performing for 37 years now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take time to practice.
The 14 SkyHawk jumpers, known for their signature Canadian flag parachutes, trained for five weeks to prepare themselves for this season, which began in early May in California. The team is made up of soldiers from both the Regular and Reserve Forces and has performed at more than 3,100 shows for more than 65 million people.
Since last year, the number of jumpers has also increased to 14, which, weather permitting, will allow them to perform six formations, or routines, said Lt. Cynthia Larue, the SkyHawks public affairs officer.
“We improve the show every year,” she said.
The parachute team is an air show regular at the Salute to Veterans free air show and will be performing both May 24 and May 25 this year.
“The SkyHawks receive a very warm welcome from Columbia,” Larue said. “The team has a great time and loves the hospitality.”
Mary McCleary Posner, founder and president of the Memorial Day celebration, said she enjoys having the Canadian team at the air show.
“It is an opportunity to say thank you to an ally,” she said.
The SkyHawks’ first jump always brings tears to her eyes, she said, because one parachutist flies with an unfurled American flag connected to his foot.
Larue, who will narrate the show, said one formation will take place above another, and she will describe the formation closest to the ground before moving on to the next formation.
Larue said the crowd can look forward to two maneuvers in particular — the Canadian “T” and the Candy Cane.
The Canadian “T” consists of two jumpers, flying side-by-side, while another jumper hangs below, carrying a flag from his foot and then landing with it on the ground.
The Candy Cane is a show favorite, Larue said, because of the smoke trail behind the jumper, who spins with six smoke canisters to highlight his flight.
The team’s mission is to increase public awareness of the Canadian Army and to demonstrate the standard of professionalism, physical fitness and teamwork that prevails throughout the Canadian forces, Larue said.