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Plans for Snowbird 8 memorial taking flight

After years of planning, people with the Snowbird 8 Memorial Project are ready to get started. On Tuesday, West Peace Aviation Association President Lloyd Sherk asked the city for $50,000 to help install a Tutor plane monument at the Grande Prairie Airport. Sherk says the plane will act as a memorial for former Snowbird Captain Gordon de Jong who died in Grande Prairie.

“Our aim is to have the Tutor painted in Snowbird colours on a pedestal. We want to dedicate it on the 3rd of May, 2020. It will be the 42nd anniversary of Gord’s death and 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Snowbirds.”

De Jong was a member of the 1978 Snowbird team. He was flying in an airshow in Grande Prairie on May 3, 1978, when metal fatigue caused his plane to crash just north of the airport.

The idea for the memorial was originally brought up three years ago with plans to put a different type of plane in the area north of the airport parking lot. After talking it over again in January, Sherk says they decided to finally go ahead with it.

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“When we started bringing it up everybody said no it’s time. It’s something that we just neglected to do over the years so it’s time to do it now and time to do it well. His family’s still around the Snowbirds that were flying with him in 1978 are still around so it’s a good time to make it happen.”

Sherk plans to order the plane frame by June and build the pedestal over the winter months. It is then expected to be put in place by April 2020 and have the plane on it in time for a ceremony on May 3rd.

The total for the project is sitting around $228,000. Most of the items needed such as transportation, engineering and designing services have been donated by local businesses. Sherk says the project will move ahead with or without the city’s help. The funding request will be brought up at the next council meeting.

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