Drew Watson, right, stands with Jason, the boyfriend of the Moose Lodge raffle winner, following his ride in the Harvard. Photo submitted

Yellow Thunder back up and flying

Aerobatic team just starting to return after pandemic grounded them

A local aerobatic team is pushing through like everyone else, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a dramatic downturn in their schedule.

Ultimately, the Yellow Thunder demonstration team — that is based out of Ponoka and consists of brothers Drew and Dave Watson — was grounded soon after the pandemic took hold in March as all of the air shows they were booked for were cancelled.

“With no shows, we had no revenue coming in and so we couldn’t insure both aircraft,” Drew said in a phone interview July 25.

“So, we were grounded for the last few months until we hosted a ground school recently that got us enough to insure one of the planes.”

The ground school focused on the mechanical aspects of flight and the team’s pair of Harvard aircraft, which were designed back in 1934 and used as an advanced trainer plane.

That has enabled the brothers to hit the skies over the Ponoka area in recent weeks, mostly as a way to keep their skills in shape for when the airshow season returns in 2021.

“Early on this year, we had a few flights to get back into it and refresh our skills, but then COVID-19 came and we had no where to perform,” said Drew.

“Usually, we would be up often or off performing, so what we have been left with is offering up rides to the public this year.”

And one of the those rides came earlier this month, one the brothers donated as a prize to Ponoka’s Loyal Order of Moose Lodge recent raffle that earned the community group $600.

“We donated that ride and another to the Ponoka RC Flyers, something we like to do,” said Drew.

“The story for the Moose ride is a bit funny. A woman from Cold Lake (Joelle Thorgrimson) who happens to be a flight doctor with the Royal Canadian Air Force and is also a pilot, won. However, she donated the ride to her boyfriend, who is a medi-vac pilot.

“He was tickled with the ride and I basically told him, ‘you owe her.’”

And with no season, the brothers will be up flying every once in a while and will be offering up rides — both regular and aerobatic flights — for the rest of the summer.

For more information or to book a ride, check them out at www.yellowthunder.ca or find them on Facebook.

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