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Italian aerobatic team to fly over Moose Jaw during North American Tour

The Frecce Tricolori kicked off its flying season on May 24 in Rome, Italy, while its North American tour takes flight on June 22, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

MOOSE JAW — For the first time in 32 years, the Italian Air Force’s aerobatic team is returning to North America to showcase its abilities, with the team making an appearance in Moose Jaw.

The Frecce Tricolori — Italian for The Tricolour Arrows — kicked off its flying season on May 24 in Rome, Italy, while its North American tour takes flight on Saturday, June 22, in Bagotville, Que., to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

The group then performs or flies over 24 other locations across the continent for the next two-and-a-half months before concluding on Monday, Aug. 26, on the United States’ East Coast.

The 313th Aerobatic Training Group — similar to 15 Wing Airbase’s 431 (Snowbirds) Demonstration Team — makes a brief stop in Moose Jaw on Monday, July 22, with a flyover before heading southeast to Wisconsin. Airplane aficionados in The Friendly City will have to catch the flypast from outside the airbase because it won’t be open to the public when the Italians arrive.

The team flies the MB.339A jet fighter, which has been proven to be highly suitable for the exhibition exploits of the Frecce Tricolori since it can be modified with a multi-coloured smoke system. While the plane is mainly used for training and liaison, the air force can also use it for close-air support missions. 

This deployment, thousands of kilometres from Italy, will give the aerobatic team — founded 63 years ago on March 1, 1961 — the opportunity to share the values, technology, professionalism and teamwork of the entire Italian Air Force, the group’s website says. 

The tour is mainly a training activity that will test the air force’s capabilities in planning and conducting complex operations involving numerous aircraft and personnel — even foreign ones — while showcasing the country’s military aeronautical and aerospace capabilities. 

The North American Tour will give the Frecce Tricolori the chance to represent Italy around the world, spread the “Made in Italy” tag overseas and promote the national industry in places where millions of people belonging to the Italian-Canadian and Italian-American communities live, the website added. 

The last time the Frecce Tricolori was in North America was in 1992 for its “Columbus ’92” mission, while it last appeared in Moose Jaw on Aug. 5, 1986, and put on an impressive 20-minute “display of dazzling flight” for roughly 1,000 people, according to the Leader-Post.

While many of the team’s manoeuvres were familiar to anyone who had already seen the Snowbirds, the routine was unmistakably Frecce Tricolori’s own, the article continued. The group used a slightly more powerful jet, flew with a formation of nine plus one — the Snowbirds use nine planes, but two break off for solo work — and spewed green, white and red smoke to honour the Italian flag.

“The weather was perfect with little wind and a brilliant blue sky, allowing the pilots to colour the sky as an artist paints with a brush,” the Leader-Post added. 

Said the Times-Herald, “Much of the formation flying is similar to that of the Snowbirds, but the added presence of a daring soloist who often flies through the midst of those formations makes it that much more exciting.

“The show combines the exciting precision flying familiar to Moose Jaw audiences with daredevil stunts that seem more appropriate for the biplanes that grace Moose Jaw’s air show.”

After the performance, many visitors met with the Italian airmen at a reception, while base commander Col. George Miller and Maj. Gen. A. Pillinini, chief of Italian Airforce Aerobatic teams, exchanged gifts. 

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