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Snowbird jets refuel in Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- They came in small waves to the Worthington Regional Airport early Thursday afternoon.

Four CT-114 Tutor jets, flying in single formation led by Team Commander Major Ian McLean, landed and came to rest for re-fueling.

Minutes later, four more jets arrived, approaching the runway in a tight diamond-shaped formation.

And finally, three more. Eleven CT-114 Tutors in all. Then, after lunching briefly on soda pop and chips in the airport lobby area, the pilots climbed into their jets and were off again en route to Vidalia, Ga.

It's an extremely rare treat for Worthington to be visited with aircraft such as CT-114s. The Snowbirds are a precision aerobatic team serving as ambassadors throughout North America, putting on spectacular shows while representing the Canadian Forces. In their 35-year history, the Snowbirds have performed in more than 2,000 air shows before more than 117 million spectators.

McLean and his 431 Air Demonstration Squadron came to Worthington from Saskatchewan, by way of Minot, N.D., en route to an event in Georgia.

"You guys are in a nice straight line from Minot to Vidalia, Ga., and we talked to your flight service station to find out if you had the fuel that we needed," McLean said upon arrival.

Worthington had just enough fuel, in fact.

"We should have just enough. They want 2,640 gallons total, and we now have 3,100 in the ground," said Craig Schneidermann, a pilot at Integrity Aviation, who answered the call confirming the Snowbirds' refueling plans.

McLean is a 25-year veteran in the Canadian military. He is an F-18 fighter pilot by trade.

Asked whether the Snowbirds might be available someday to perform in Worthington, McLean answered in the affirmative. Worthington isn't too small a city for the Snowbirds, he said, though he pointed out that competition is tight. While performing for shows, he said, pilots are also available for public affairs, such as appearances at schools and hospitals.

While airborne, pilots put their jets through spectacular moves.

"It doesn't matter where we go. We're unique in the States," McLean said of his Snowbirds. "We're the Canadian equivalent of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. We fly nine aircraft in very close formation, and we do loops and rolls 300 feet above ground with nine aircraft in very close formation."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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