The weather was the story of the day. Today was to be the first day of competition but the low ceiling and high winds cancelled all activities. There was a chance that the weather would clear enough for the afternoon events to take place. I was once again in the air, this time in the only Griffon at SAREX.
This Griffon (146439) was a long way from home - 26 hours of flying to get to Comox from home base
Bagotville, Quebec - and flying with the world famous 439 "Sabre-Toothed Tigers" Esc, they brought their
flagship helo painted with "tiger stripes" along the boom, reminisent of the squadrons lineage when they
flew CF-104 Starfighters in Germany, where the squadron would participate in the annual NATO "Tiger Meet" exercise.
Orignally, our flight in the Griffon was going to be a photo flight with myself, a professional photographer from Vancouver and two from Combat Camera. We were to shoot the SARTechs jumping from the Buffalo and Hercules from the Griffon. The plan was to fly slow and 200 ft above the other two planes and shoot them as the SARTechs jumped out of the back of each plane - this would have been a great vantage point to see the event!We were strapped in to the seats while the two Combat Camera photographers were on "monkey tails".
We departed Comox around 13:00, just prior to the afternoon events to do a weather check which we would report back to SAREX Ops. The weather was overcast with some light rain and the ceiling fluctuated. There were a few patches of blue sky in the distance and after flying around for 30 minutes the decision to go ahead with the events was made. This did not last long. Within a few minutes the weather deterated even more and the afternoon events had to be cancelled. This did allow us some time to do some sight seeing in the area and after "buzzing" the DZ a few times and a sailboat we made our way back to Comox and made a nice slow pass over the flightline for some more photos. During the flight we were able to see an Aurora flying around the circuit and a few smaller sea planes. I thought that flying around with a door wide open would make me nervous or worry about "bad things" but it was the total opposite. Completely amazing! Totally exillerating to be flying low level over land and water and seeing it rush by so quickly. The flight was close to 90 minutes and although we did get the oppportuntiy to shoot the exercise, the flight was still a terrific experience and the crew from 439 Esc were a great group of guys.