Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence
AIR FORCE PUBLIC AFFAIRS

AIR FORCE PUBLIC AFFAIRS

November 17, 2006 14:27 ET

DND: Snowbirds Announce New Commanding Officer

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 17, 2006) - 15 WING, MOOSE JAW - Major Robert Mitchell, 37, of Victoria, B.C., was appointed as the Team Lead and Commanding Officer of 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, November 14, following a competitive selection process.

"Major Mitchell demonstrated that he has the piloting and leadership skills required to lead the Snowbirds, a Squadron with an extremely important mission as Canadian Forces ambassadors," said Major-General Charles Bouchard, Commander, 1 Canadian Air Division. "To lead the Snowbirds is a tremendous privilege and responsibility - I know that Major Mitchell will continue the team's 36-year tradition of excellence."

"It is a tremendous honour to be selected as the Team Lead and Commanding Officer of the Snowbirds - I am truly ecstatic," said Major Mitchell. "I am looking forward to a wonderful 2007 show season and to the opportunity of visiting communities across North America."

Major Ian McLean, of London, Ont., who is retiring from the Canadian Forces, will officially relinquish command to Major Mitchell during a ceremony January 19, 2007 at 15 Wing, Moose Jaw. Under Major McLean's leadership, the team participated in more than 100 air shows as well as hundreds of community events across North America.

As the Team Lead and Commanding Officer, Major Mitchell will be responsible for leading the 9-plane formation in air shows and transit flights across North America as well as to provide inspiring leadership for the 85-member Squadron.

Major Mitchell, a graduate of the University of Manitoba, joined the Canadian Forces in 1989 and has 3,500 hours of flying high performance aircraft. His experience includes flying the CF-18 Hornet as an operational and air demonstration pilot, performing on the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Team from 2000 to 2002 and, most recently, working as a defence analyst at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.

The team will now begin a rigorous six-month training program, practicing different manoeuvres and formations, in order to prepare for the 2007 air show season. During the 2007 season, the team is expected to participate in about 60 air shows across North America, representing the professionalism, skill and teamwork of the Canadian Forces and inspiring Canadians to consider a career in Canada's military.

Note to editors/news directors: Please contact Lieutenant (Navy) Petra Smith, public affairs officer, Canadian Forces Snowbirds, at (306) 684-3005 to coordinate interviews. For background information on the team as well as a photo of Major Mitchell, please visit the Snowbirds' website at www.snowbirds.forces.gc.ca

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