EDMONTON -- A cross country tour by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds to thank essential workers started its way south across Alberta on Thursday.

The shows have been nicknamed Operation Inspiration, and are a tribute to all Canadians, especially those who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"We’re here to inspire Canadians — which is always our mission, but in this case, it’s to give them hope to look forward to some better months ahead and some better times ahead after doing their duty and staying at home, helping each other by isolating,” explained Maj. Regan Wickett.

The team of 11 aircraft and about two dozen crew members left Cold Lake Friday morning to Fort McMurray and La Loche, Sask.

From there, they headed south to the capital region.

“It’s been tough for us too. Most of the airshow season at this point is not going to go ahead as we had planned, which for us is a big deal because this is our 50th anniversary…

"To be able to have the opportunity to go coast to coast during this period is definitely a privilege."

On Saturday, the Snowbirds will head to Kamloops through Rocky Mountain House.

Their flying schedules are dependent on weather, and are posted on social media.

Operation Inspiration began on May 2 in Nova Scotia.

Routes and times are subject to change.