Published June 14, 2024

'It's been a trip of a lifetime': Simcoe County pilot to lead Snowbirds at Barrie Air Show

Major Brent Handy meets with the media at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro-Medonte on June 14, 2024. (PHOTO - Barrie 360)

When the Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform over Kempenfelt Bay this weekend in Barrie, the team lead and flying the aircraft with the number 1 on the tail will be Major Brent Handy of Wyevale in Tiny Township.

The Simcoe County native says he started flying as a 16-year-old air cadet and did much of it at Canadian Forces Base Borden on weekends when he was in high school. From there, Handy joined the military at age 20 and spent time at Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw and at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake where he had a variety of roles including a flight instructor and flying the CF-18 fighter jet.

Being a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on its 100th anniversary and now the team leader for the Snowbirds makes it extra special for Handy.

"It's a milestone year for the RCAF, and when I reflect on it, it's amazing how far aviation has come in as short as 100 years. We've gone from airplanes that were made of fabric and quite dangerous to fly back in those days to cutting-edge performance flying around on Mach 2, which is an incredibly maneuverable and capable airplane. It's a pretty exciting time when you reflect on it that way and how far we've come in a short period of time."

Major Brent Handy is the lead for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and will pilot the aircraft with the number 1 on the tail at this weekend's Barrie Air Show - photo- Barrie 360

As team leader, it is Handy's responsibility for guiding the formation through the air during the show.

"This is my first year as the team leader of the Snowbirds. Before that I served as a wingman in 2012 and 2013, and then I served as an instructor pilot and standard pilot for the squadron for about five years after that."

Standing on the tarmac at the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro-Medonte on Friday where he met with the media, Handy says his favourite thing about flying with the team is the variability of the show sites and the challenge of flying in different terrain.

Cockpit of Canadian Forces Snowbird -1 aircraft - Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, June 14, 2024, Barrie 360 photo

Referring to this weekend's show over Kempenfelt Bay, he says generally flying over the water offers quite smooth conditions.

"For me as the lead, the challenge is when we have a lot of turbulence, because I need to give it a good and smooth ride to the wingmen so they can fly accurately."

Handy was asked if the shape of Kempenfelt Bay will play into how he leads the team.

"We train in the Canadian Prairies, which is grid roads and very predictable, and that's good training for us. Over the water can be quite challenging because you don't have a lot of references. Kempenfelt Bay is not a huge body of water, so we do have lots of landmarks to keep lined up with."

Handy says he did not have flying with the Snowbirds on his radar when he was training with the air cadets.

Major Brent Handy is the lead for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and will pilot the aircraft with the number 1 on the tail at this weekend's Barrie Air Show - photo- Barrie 360

"I dreamt of flying jets in the military. I was typically focused on flying the CF-18, it was my dream plane."

He calls himself "super lucky" that the stars lined up the way they did.

"It was just really kind of in the right place at the right time, and the right colleagues that were on the team and invited me to try out in 2011. I didn't see it coming, but it's been a trip of a lifetime."

Barrie Air Show information:

Planes will take to the skies over Kempenfelt Bay at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with an opening address starting at approximately 12:30 p.m. The show will include the Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron), the Canadian Armed Forces SkyHawks Parachute Team, the CF-18 Demonstration Team, the Northern Stars Aeroteam, solo aerobatic pilot Mike Tryggvason, Timmermans Legends of Flight P-51 and Sea Fury, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association, the Edenvale Classic Aircraft Foundation, and more.

Viewing & Tuning In

Recommended viewing for the Airshow is at Heritage Park, Centennial Park, Will Dwyer Park, Southshore Park, Allandale Station Park, Minet’s Point Park, or any of the small parks along the north and south shores of Kempenfelt Bay.

Tune in to 87.9 FM from the waterfront to follow along with show commentary.

Getting to the Show
Barrie Transit is offering a free park ‘n ride shuttle from Allandale Rec Centre (190 Bayview Drive), H Block parking lot (50 Worsley Street), and other stops along the route to get you to and from the Airshow festivities on June 14, 15 and 16.

Parking is available within walking distance along the waterfront and throughout the downtown.

The following road closures will be in effect over the weekend.

  • Dunlop Street (Maple Avenue to Mulcaster Street) from 6 a.m. Saturday, June 15 to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 16.
  • Simcoe Street (Bayfield Street to Dunlop Street East) from 6 a.m. Saturday, June 15 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 16.

Viewing from the Water & Access Restrictions

For the safety of the public and airshow pilots, a safety line will be formed from Brentwood Marine to Johnson’s Beach. Water access and water-based activities will be restricted in the area west of the line (including Centennial Park and Minet’s Point Park) during the following times:

  • Friday, June 14 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 15 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 16 – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

*Times are approximate and subject to change on the day of the show

Restricted activities include boating, access in and out of the marina and boat launches, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, etc. The safety line will be enforced by the Barrie Police and their service partners on Lake Simcoe.

The Tiffin Boat Launch will be closed all day June 14-15 and June 16 until 5 p.m. Boaters are encouraged to consider using nearby public launches including Innisfil and Orillia area.

No Drone Zone
The airspace will be restricted June 14-16. For the safety of all involved, flying of drones anywhere in the area is strictly prohibited.

Personal Safety
For the personal safety of all spectators, please consider the below recommendations:

  • Wear ear protection, especially for children
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and apply sunscreen
  • Stay hydrated

For more information, including the full event schedule and details about how to get around, visit

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