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Membership

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Remembrance Day Flight
With the Fraser Blues

01

Story and photos by John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

Nearly forty-five years after retired Colonel George Miller led the aerobatic Snowbirds of RCAF 431 Demonstration Squadron, he is still flying as leader of an aircraft formation team, the Fraser Blues, based at the Langley BC airport. In 1973, Miller was appointed to lead the Snowbirds as team commander, following Colonel Owen Bartley “O.B” Philp, who formed the aerobatic team in 1968.

02George Miller, seen giving the pre-flight briefing for the November 11 flight of the Fraser Blues, followed O.B. Philp as Base Commander of CFB Moose Jaw and retired from the air force in 1988. After moving to British Columbia, George served as manager of the airport at Langley BC. There he established the Fraser Blues, a formation team of Navion aircraft. In 2015, he and O.B. Philp were both inducted as Members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

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Starting with a formation takeoff, each year aircraft of the Fraser Blues perform formation flypasts over Remembrance Day ceremonies in the Langley area. On November 11, 2017, crowds at cenotaphs in eight locations were treated to four aircraft making a pass with streaming smoke trails.

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Above is the Navion flown by George Miller’s son, Guy, who has succeeded his father as manager of the Langley airport. Guy filled the position after serving as an RCAF pilot, followed by 13 years as a commercial airline pilot. Named “Bonnie Blue,” Guy’s aircraft carries nose art reminiscent of the pin-up style of images seen on aircraft of the Second World War. The other two very experienced pilots in the team are Ray Roussy and Clive Barratt.

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I gladly accepted George’s invitation to fly with him on Remembrance Day 2017. Each of the four aircraft in the formation carried two passengers.

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Even on a cloudy day, the Remembrance Day flight saw some spectacular scenery. In 40 minutes we passed over eight cenotaph locations. Upon landing, the day’s events continued with hangar flying over coffee, then camaraderie at the nearby Cloverdale Legion, where pipe and drum music and choral singing of Second World War tunes contributed to the social gathering of remembrance. A dinner hosted by the Fraser Blues and attended by pilots, spouses and passengers concluded my most memorable Remembrance Day ever.

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With the smoke trail from the exhaust in one of the cenotaph flypasts, seen off the port wing of George Miller’s aircraft is Clive Barratt in his Navion.

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Grant Ward, who served 12 years as a councillor for the Township of Langley, has been associated with the Fraser Blues and was especially pleased with the Remembrance Day flypasts. “For the first time in about 40 years the cenotaph at the Langley Murrayville Cemetery was publicly used for Remembrance Day ceremonies,” he said. “A small citizens' group had taken the initiative, together with local media promotion, to revive the cenotaph service. We expected a small turnout, but some 250 attended and expressed appreciation of the Fraser Blues participation.”

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The “crew” in George’s Miller’s aircraft. At left is award winning former air cadet Warrant Officer First Class Tristan Dyke, holder of glider and pilot licenses. He is now in second year studying physics at the University of British Columbia. John Chalmers is at centre, pilot George Miller at right.

See www.fraserblues.com and John’s video of the flight at youtu.be/aly8UFiIWQs