Just one day after the tragic crash of an RCAF Snowbird on Sunday, May 17, members of the BC General Aviation Association (BCGA) gathered at British Columbia’s Abbotsford airport (CYXX) to launch a fly-by honouring the memory of crash victim Captain Jennifer (Jenn) Casey.
Casey, whose parachute apparently failed to deploy after ejecting from the CT-114 Tutor shortly after takeoff from Kamloops airport (CYKA), was the public relations officer for the RCAF’s Air Demonstration team.
The fly-by event, dubbed Operation Backup Inspiration, was well-planned, with a number of Nav Canada employees contributing to the success of the mission. Co-ordinated by BCGA’s Ryan Van Haren, an ATPL-rated pilot and Nav Canada air traffic controller himself, the flight departed CYXX in three groups of 10 planes, in a follow-the-leader sequence with each pilot keeping the plane in front in sight at all times.
“Kudos go to Abbotsford tower’s Ben Hendrickson, who came up with many suggestions that helped ensure the safety of the event,” Van Haren told eFlight. “And I’d like to thank the Abbotsford Flying Club for the help they provided in marshalling the aircraft, among other contributions.”
Safety was of prime importance, and no ‘formation’ or stunt flying was permitted. Unique transponder codes were assigned each participant, and protocols for leaving the commemorative flight were established in advance.
The flightpath led the group over White Rock and the Peace Arch park in the south, over Fort Langley and along the north shore of Vancouver harbour, across English Bay to Kitsilano, and over downtown Vancouver before turning east. The flight lasted approximately one hour.
Rose Casey, Capt. Casey’s mother, was told of the event in advance and watched it on the news from Halifax. “She beamed with a mix of grief and pride…you and your team did that. It was seen by THE person who needed it the most,” BCGA member Sean Smith posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Photo credits: Steve Drinkwater