A lot of chatter arose when a large aircraft was spotted flying overhead the North Thompson valley, leading many residents to reach out on social media, sharing photos as well as theories as to why it had passed over, and why it was flying so low.
Folks from Kamloops north to Vavenby noted a large military-looking aircraft flying over their homes on Tuesday (Jan. 26) afternoon.
“Was very, very low and very strange,” commented Jen Schwab Nickel to a post on the Hwy 5 Road Conditions Upper and Lower North Thompson, British Columbia public Facebook group.
A few minutes later, the plane had reached Birch Island.
“Just flew over Birch Island,” wrote Bobbi Bordeleau. “I have never seen a plane fly so low.”
Ellen Monteith said she was in McLure heading to Kamloops when the aircraft flew right in front of her after turning a corner on the highway. She called her husband, Gary, in Barriere right away to grab his camera and head outside. He got out there just in time to take some pretty good close-up shots.
A few theories were suggested, from transport of the COVID-19 vaccine and a training exercise, to more quirky theories like aliens, or former president Donald Trump scoping out a new country, to the Chinese military testing in “cold weather.”
The Times called the Royal Canadian Air Force 19 Wing in Comox and forwarded them a few photos posted by a couple of Facebook users of the aircraft in question.
After a quick chat with the squadron, Captain Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer for the 19 Wing Comox, was able to confirm the plane that flew overhead was a CC-130J Hercules aircraft from the 436 Transport Squadron of the 8 Wing in Trenton, Ont.
The Hercules aircraft is used for a wide range of missions by the RCAF, including troop transport, tactical airlift and aircrew training. The J-model Hercules is the newest model flown by the RCAF, according to their website.
This particular aircraft had left Ontario Tuesday morning on a mission to bring a radar to 19 Wing in Comox, B.C. From there, the aircraft flew to Edmonton, Alta., and will be heading back to Trenton Friday (Jan. 29) morning.
Captain Graeme Scott, 8 Wing public affairs officer, said the low altitude the Hercules was flying at is normal for training purposes, adding the pilots are always aware of the Transport Canada regulations of how low they can fly over any given area or any obstacle in their path.
He said pilots sometimes will practice certain flying techniques while on a mission, as well.
“They have so many missions and they do have training requirements, so they can do their various upgrades from co-pilot to pilot and aircraft commander et cetera,” said Scott. “They may have been doing something to that effect.”
As for the flying path, there are standard approaches on how to enter various air spaces and how to approach for landing, said Scott, but sometimes pilots can request a deviation, which may have been the case here.
A screenshot of a Facebook post made by a woman in Lake Country noted one of the pilots in the plane was her brother. She declined to comment.
However, Scott said it is possible one of the crew members requested a deviation in their flight path while on their way from Comox to Edmonton to say hello to family members from a distance.