Everywhere the members of Canada's elite aerobatics team go, they are treated like rock stars.
But a sex and drugs and loop-and-roll lifestyle is not really an option for the Snowbirds—officially RCAF 431 Air Demonstration Squadron.
"It's a challenging life," said Captain Thomas Edelson, one of the pilots and the squadron's public relations officer, on a stopover in Yorkton July 16 where the Snowbirds were using the airport as their staging ground for Roblin, Manitoba's big centennial celebration.
"There can be a lot of temptation to go out. The towns are always super-excited to host the team and show us the best time. It's always greatly appreciated and greatly received, but you can't do it everywhere.
"It's a long season; you can't party every night. A lot of the guys will probably take it easy, probably go to the gym, get something to eat and get a good night's sleep and get ready for what's going to be an interesting day tomorrow."
There are few Canadians, who have not seen the iconic white, red and blue Snowbird jets at some point or other, at a Riders game or Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill or any of roughly 70 shows they do each year between May and October.
Often compared to a ballet in the sky because of the graceful synchronized movements, Edelson said it's anything but when you're in the cockpit.
"From the ground, it looks like there's some ease to it, but you go for a ride in that show and it's like you're getting the snot beat out of you for 35 minutes," he explained.
The planes themselves are old, but very robust technology. The CT-114 Tutor was the RCAF's basic pilot training jet from 1963 to 2000. During their show, the Snowbirds fly at speeds up to 590 kilometres an hour. Edelson describes the aircraft as agile, durable and very stable.
"I love flying in it," he said. "It's small, it's cramped in there and it's warm. It's not the most comfortable ride, but it's quite a way to see the world, upside down, rolling and everything else."
The squadron travels with 11 CT-114s, nine for the performances and two spares, flown by the team coordinators. Each aircraft has its own technician.
Of course, part of the thrill for spectators is the element of perceived danger presented by the close flying and stunts. But fighter pilots are legendary for being a different breed, including the current Snowbird fliers.
"I don't think many people would evaluate what we do as scary, maybe exciting, but not scary," Edelson said.
"The show is designed to be as safe as it can be. Any type of flying has an element of risk. What we focus on is minimizing those risks, only taking what we feel are acceptable risks."
Nevertheless, with nearly 3,000 official shows and close to double that many practice flights, the Snowbirds have been involved in numerous accidents since the groups inauguration in 1971. Some 20 collisions, crashes or technical failures have taken the lives of seven pilots and one passenger.
That doesn't weigh on the minds of the active pilots, but it does have an impact on others. Captain Trevor Shawaga from Melville recalled a show they did at their home base in Moose Jaw with his parents in attendance.
"I remember coming down afterwards and my mom said she enjoyed the show, it was outstanding, but the part she enjoyed the most was the landing," he said.
Shawaga was thrilled to be performing in the area last week.
"Melville is still home for me," he said. "To come back here and actually fly with the snowbirds, it means a lot to me."
And Roblin couldn't have been happier to have him and the rest of the team for its 100th birthday.
"It was amazing, really spectacular," said Christie Maliteare, a spokesperson for the Town of Roblin Centennial.
"We got a fantastic crowd, the sun was out, the place was packed and everyone was very happy."