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The Canadian Air Force Spent $2 Million Flying Fighter Jets Over Sporting Events

A fly-by for the Grey Cup cost more than $300,000.

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There's a rumbling sound in the distance that approaches quickly, a fast, loud swoosh, and then it's over.

Some laugh, some scream, while excited lads let out a proud "Wooooo!"

Canada's fighter jets put on quite the show. But those few seconds of excitement aren't cheap: It cost nearly $2 million for CF-18s to fly over sporting events last year.

Ints Kalnins / Reuters

Data obtained under access to information laws shows the Hornets performed fly-bys for sporting events 11 times in 2015, at an average cost of $177,420 per event.

Those events — mostly football games — amounted to 32.5 hours in the air for the CF-18s, a total cost of $1,951,625.

It costs $60,050 per hour to fly a CF-18, according to a military costing guide that accompanied the data. That figure includes fuel, maintenance, crew, and more.

One of the most expensive events was the Grey Cup. It cost $336,280 for two CF-18s to fly by the football field in Winnipeg.

The jets were in the air for more than 5 hours combined that night in November. They came from CFB Cold Lake, one of two Canadian bases the CF-18s call home.

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Maj. Steve Neta said the Royal Canadian Air Force has been flying over sports stadiums for as long as he can remember. "And frankly, it's something we're proud to do," he said.

He said sports organizations request the fly-bys but do not reimburse the air force. The cost of the fly-overs is built into yearly flying budgets, Neta said, adding that the air force sees fly-overs as valuable public outreach exercises. They're often combined with pilot training as well, he said.

But money has been tight in the air force. Budget cuts recently prompted the air force to keep its CF-18s on the ground more often, the Ottawa Citizen reported last year.

Neta insisted fly-bys only happen if the air force has the resources. "Fly-bys don't happen at the sacrifice of our operations and our readiness," Neta said.

The air force has a dedicated CF-18 demo team, but it typically attends airshows in Canada and the U.S.
Facebook: CF18Demo

The air force has a dedicated CF-18 demo team, but it typically attends airshows in Canada and the U.S.

He said the number of fly-bys varies by year depending on the budget, but that "it's fair to say" the air force will keep doing them this year.

Fighter jet fly-bys for sporting events in 2015:

June 7: Montreal Grand Prix Formula 1, 2 jets, 3.4 hours = $204,170

June 11: Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie in Montmagny, Que., 1 jet, 0.5 hours = $30,025

July 2: Calgary Stampede, 2 jets, 3.2 hours = $192,160

Aug. 2: NASCAR Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, 1 jet, 1.1 hours = $66,055

Aug. 14: Winnipeg Blue Bombers First Responders Appreciation Night, 2 jets, 3.5 hours = $210,175

Aug. 28: Edmonton Eskimos Military Appreciation game, 2 jets, 1.5 hours = $90,075

Sept. 7: Calgary Stampeders Labour Day Classic/Military Appreciation, 2 jets, 3.2 hours = $192,160

Oct. 1: Ottawa Redblacks Armed Forces Tribute Game, 1 jet, 2 hours = $120,100

Oct. 18: Montreal Alouettes game, 2 jets, 5.6 hours = $336,280

Nov. 1: Hamilton Tiger-Cats game, 1 jet, 2.9 hours = $174,145

Nov. 29: Grey Cup in Winnipeg, 2 jets, 5.6 hours = $336,280

Emma Loop is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. PGP fingerprint: 4A39 DD99 953C 6CAF D68C 85CD C380 AB23 859B 0611.

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