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Interview with Gary Siddall, Author of Evolution of the Snowbirds

Posted by William Chappell on

We are thrilled to be handling the North American sales of “Evolution of the Snowbirds” a 27-page, magazine format publication “Commemorating The 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron".

Gary Siddall is its author and Leader of the Aerobatic Display Teams Special Interest Group (SIG) of IPMS(UK).

The book is a beautiful production and should be of interest to modelers, aircraft enthusiasts and fans of the CAF Snowbirds. We cannot wait to bring these books to Aero Gatineau (Gatineau Airshow) in September, in conjunction with appearances by the Snowbirds. We Canadians are certainly proud of our world class Aerobatic Team.


Gary, Aerobatic Teams are a passion of yours and this is in clear evidence in this book. Have you published other books about other groups like the Red Arrows?

Back in 2014, I did a similar “Evolution of...” type of “bookazine” to mark the RAF Red Arrows 50th anniversary: It was originally only intended to be distributed internally as a PDF document to the members of the Aerobatic Display Teams SIG. However, when the President of IPMS(UK) saw an early draft of it, he believed that it was worthy of a wider audience and suggested that IPMS(UK) should publish it and every member of the Society would get a copy as a “supplement” to the normal IPMS Magazine, as a bonus to their IPMS membership. So although for me, the “creative process” was very similar, technically it was IPMS(UK) who published that first one.


What made you choose to do a book about the Snowbirds?

The reasons for doing the Snowbirds book were virtually the same as the previous Red Arrows publication: Back then, we were going to do a special 50th Anniversary theme display of the history of the Red Arrows, at the Scale ModelWorld event in the UK, in 2014. During the preparation and trying to define all the various different markings that the aircraft had appeared in, it occurred to me that, despite all the dozens of books and other media dedicated to the Red Arrows over the years, there had not been anything that purely focussed on the aircraft, its systems and the colour schemes. So I started to compile one... and it just snowballed from there.

Practically the same thing happened again as we approached the Snowbirds 50th anniversary – in preparing a list of models for a display (which SHOULD have been Scale ModelWorld 2020, until Covid cancelled everything), I again realised that all the previous excellent books and publications had not completely detailed the aircraft and their subtle changes in markings and colour schemes – so I started doing it myself ! And as before, it was initially going to be just an “in-house” PDF, but as I went on and once again it got more and more in-depth, I started considering.... wondering, about the feasibility of getting it into print by self-publishing it – something I had never done before !


How long did it take you to research and write this book?

In many ways, I guess I could say “most of my life” !  I’ve had a passion for the world’s aerobatic teams since I was a kid, when I can vividly remember seeing the Red Arrows perform near my school when I was probably about 10 years old. So ever since then, I’ve been following, researching, documenting and photographing ALL aerobatic teams, collecting memorabilia, brochures, patches, etc. In fact my very first real contact with the Snowbirds was way back in 1981, their 10th anniversary, when the then PAO, Captain Ron Duckworth, kindly sent me their 1981 Press Pack, containing the team history, photos and brochure, along with the large 10th anniversary official litho (which still proudly hangs on my wall).

But specifically pulling it all together and beginning the artwork for this book, well, that started properly in early 2019, in preparation for the Snowbirds 50th anniversary in 2020..... Except due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen. So that gave me some extra time as the book was also forced to be delayed too....  As I fully expected some special markings or new colour scheme to be applied to the Tutors for the 50th season, I simply could not do a book commemorating the 50th anniversary until it actually happened ! 


How was sourcing information about the Snowbirds over in the UK? I am blown away by the detail and depth of information you provided in your book. The artwork is very well done. Photos of the cockpit were a great addition plus the colours of the seats and seatbelts. A wealth of detail is packed in this book. 

As I mentioned above, over many years I had already amassed a sizeable collection of the official Snowbirds annual leaflets and yearbooks, going back to 1975 – plus many other previous books, magazine articles, videos, etc., all of which are great references. But these days, the internet is, of course, a huge and constantly updating source of reference material too. Importantly, we also have a few Canadian members in the Aerobatic Display Teams SIG (including an ex-Snowbird), so not only I was able involve them and get their help filling in gaps and answering questions, but in turn they were also able to introduce me to other Canadian Snowbirds experts who, I’m pleased to say, also got on-board with the project, supplying information, photos, etc., from their personal collections.

I also had great help and encouragement from the Snowbirds team themselves, especially the current PAO Captain Gabriel Ferris, who was very supportive from the day I contacted him about this project. He was able to go to the “right people” on the team to answer any “current” questions I had – and he also shot the photos of the cockpit of his number 11 jet, especially for me to include in the book. I want to mention him by name, as the DND would not “allow” me to credit him personally in the book.

I could not have done it without all those guys, who (with the exception of Captain Ferris) are credited on the back cover.


I understand you submitted your book to the Snowbirds for approval. How was that process? We Canadians know a thing or two about bureaucracy and red tape 😉

Yes, to be “official” and a fitting tribute to the team, I wanted to make sure I did everything right and “by the book”, so prior to printing, I went through the process of getting Intellectual Property approval from the DND. I did a similar exercise back in 2014 for the Red Arrows book; that process took probably about a week, with the exchange of several emails and some bits of advice from the MoD – and that was all sorted and approved.

So I wasn’t prepared for the process to be a LOT lengthier and drawn out with the DND and the Snowbirds book... Though to be fair, they were very understanding and helpful in what they did, it just took FAR (months) longer than I anticipated which ultimately resulted in the book not actually able to be published in 2021, the Snowbirds 50th anniversary year....


You are a member of IPMS(UK). Please tell us a little about how long you have been in the hobby and besides aerobatic team aircraft what other types of modelling subjects are you (if any) interested in?

Thanks to my late father, I’ve been modelling since I was a kid – but like a lot of people, I took an extended break from the hobby during that period in life when you discover girls, music, beer and parties, etc. !  But when things settled down and the time was right, I came back to the hobby again and coincidentally, discovered that IPMS(UK) now had an Aerobatic Display Teams Special Interest Group !  I immediately joined that and somehow found myself as the SIG Leader about 3 years later !?!

I’m not what could be described as a “prolific modeller” and although I have been known to make the very occasional Sci-Fi model and my other (lesser) passion, Unlimited Air Racers, 99.9% of the time, I’m dedicated to modelling Aerobatic Display Teams.


Are there any other interesting bits or anecdotes you would like to add for our readers?

Although this whole project started from the standpoint of a modeller, I was conscious that I also wanted the book to contain details and information about the team and the aircraft in general, so that it would be interesting and informative to non-modellers, the airshow-going public and Snowbirds fans in general. I hope I’ve managed that.

To be honest, in 50 years, I can’t believe that nobody had done this before.....


We certainly hope to do our share of promoting and selling your books in Canada & the USA. We are currently selling them in our hobby Shop in Ottawa (www.hobcen.com) and invite interested businesses to sell them in their locales. Please contact us at hobcen@rogers.com for information on how to get copies.

We will be selling them at Heritagecon in Hamilton, March 27 and at other various modelling events and the Gatineau Airshow.

Again, thank you Gary for producing this great book and allowing us to be your distributor in North America.   

Thanks to you guys for taking it on and putting it into the market that it deserves.