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Is it time to replace the famed RCAF Snowbirds Tudor jet with a more modern one?

May 2020

Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer Captain Jennifer Casey has been named as the victim in a horrific crash of an RCAF Tudor jet in a residential neighbourhood in Kamloops, B.C. on 17 May 2020.

The famed RCAF Snowbirds, officially designated as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, were on a cross-Canada tour, “Operation Inspiration,” a moral boosting exhibition in light of the current Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The Snowbirds jet, with pilot Captain Richard MacDougall at the controls and Captain Casey in the observer’s seat, took off from the Kamloops Airport in formation with a second Snowbirds jet. Seconds after take-off, one jet cut out of formation and did a barrel roll, after which there was a spark and MacDougall and Casey ejected.

The jet did a nosedive and crashed into a residential area on Glenview Avenue.

MacDougall landed on the roof of a nearby house. It’s reported that he received serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, and was transported to hospital. Casey was found deceased in another location, with traumatic injuries.

Captain Casey joined the RCAF in 2014, and the Snowbirds in 2018, after previously working reporter, producer and anchor at Halifax’s News 95.7 radio.

This is the second crash of a Snowbirds jet within the past year. Captain Kevin Domon-Grenier was forced to eject from his jet at an airshow in Atlanta last October, sustaining minor injuries. His plane crashed into a farmer’s field, with no other injuries reported.

Captain Casey is the ninth person to die in a Snowbirds jet crash since the squadron started using the Tudor jet in 1971, while 22 jets have been lost in other crashes the didn’t result in any fatalities.

The CT-114 Tudor, a single-engine turbojet-powered trainer aircraft, have been in service in the RCAF since 1963 and have been retired from service as a primary jet trainer since 2000. It was also used in 1967 by the RCAF Golden Centennaires, an aerobatic flying team assembled for Canada’s Centennial celebrations.

The Tudor may be an excellent jet and by essentially dismantling and reassembling them every 2 years, they are in excellent flying condition, given the age of the jets. It’s a great testament to the abilities and dedication of the RCAF maintainers that they are still flying to the performance standards of the Snowbirds, but the reality is that the Tudor can’t keep flying forever. Eventually the spare parts that keep the jets flying will run out.

The RCAF has dispatched a team of investigators to Kamloops to determine the cause of the crash. While it’s entirely possible that the age of the jets played absolutely no role in the crash, it still might be a good time to give our famed Snowbird pilots some newer jets to fly, before we see any more deaths.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadair_CT-114_Tutor, https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/one-dead-one-injured-as-snowbird-jet-crashes-in-kamloops-during-cross-country-tour/ar-BB14drgs?ocid=spartandhp, https://globalnews.ca/news/6954775/cf-snowbird-crashes-near-kamloops-during-b-c-stop-of-cross-canada-tour,

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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