August 27, 2020

Snowbirds Homebound


The Royal Canadian Air Force has cleared their famed air demonstration squadron aircraft to return to their home base of CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan following their grounding last May after the crash of one of the team’s aircraft shortly after taking off from the Kamloops, British Columbia airport (CYKA).

The Canadair CT-114 Tutor that crashed moments after takeoff was carrying the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron’s public affairs officer Captain Jennifer Casey, who perished in the accident, and was piloted by Captain Richard MacDougall, who sustained serious injuries. Both had ejected from the aircraft, but their parachutes were unable to fully deploy before they made contact with the ground.

The RCAF cancelled the remaining scheduled performances of the Snowbirds for the rest of the 2020 season.

New Brunswick native Capt. MacDougall returned home from Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital a week after the crash to continue what was expected to be a full recovery.

Capt. MacDougall recovering in a Kamloops hospital shortly after the accident, holding an oversized get well card presented by local community members. Photo credit: Kamloops This Week

The investigation into the cause of the crash is still ongoing, but early speculation is that the aircraft’s single engine flamed out following the ingestion of a bird through one of the engine’s two air intakes.

Focus is also being made on the status of the Tutor’s ejection seats, especially since anomalies were reported after the ejection of a Snowbird pilot over the U.S. state of Georgia in October of 2019. Problems with the ejection seat system also led to the Tutor fleet being grounded temporarily almost 11 years ago.

The first Tutor prototype first flew on January 13, 1960 and went into production a couple of years later, serving as the RCAF’s primary jet trainer until 2000. Questions continue to be asked about the future of the aircraft.

“With each passing year, the technical, safety and financial risk associated with extending the Tutor into its fifth decade and beyond will escalate,” according to an internal Department of National Defence study that was obtained and reported on by The Canadian Press in August of 2003. “These risks are significant; however, they are not easily quantified.”

Top photo credit: Steve Drinkwater