The recent fatal accident involving one of the Snowbirds’ Tutor jets has led to calls by some to phase out the Canadair-manufactured aircraft. The Tutors used by the RCAF, referred to by Canadair as the CL-41, was manufactured between 1963 and 1966, making them all well over 50 years old. They were also used by the air force as a primary jet trainer until 2000, when they were replaced with the Beechcraft CT-156 Harvard II and the BAE Systems CT-155 Hawk

But does flying nearly 60-year-old aircraft really present a risk? Many in the mainstream media seem to think so, judging by their calls for the aircraft to be grounded permanently. Others, however, disagree.

“There isn’t a better jet that exists today to be able to do the Snowbirds’ mission and I really feel strongly about that,” Robert Mitchell, Snowbirds commander in 2007 and 2008, told CBC News. “The age of the plane is somewhat irrelevant because if the airplane and the components of the airplane are kept up to date then there really is no question,” he added.

Mitchell’s comments are echoed by the current Snowbirds commander.

“First of all, the planes are broken down… about every second year,” LCol Mike French told news outlet Discover Moose Jaw. “They’re torn down right to nothing and then rebuilt. We’re basically dealing with an as-new, mint condition airplane when we do that.”

LCol French continued, “Every day they’re also…inspected by avionics people, aircraft structures people and safety systems people that go through the airplane to make sure they’re serviced properly.”

Alberta Member of Parliament Laurie Hahn, a one-time RCAF squadron commander with more than 7,000 hours on Tutors and CF-188 Hornets*, told Global News that the Tutor was “…a terrific, highly manoeuvrable airplane, but it is getting old.”

* As always, when naming Canadian military aircraft, eFlight uses the official RCAF designations.

Photo courtesy of the RCAF