Canadian air force crash investigators are looking at a bird strike as the probable cause of the crash of a Snowbird demonstration jet in Kamloops, British Columbia last month.
On May 17, 2020, Canadian Air Force Snowbirds team Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft jet crashes Into Home During Operation Inspiration Flyover
The accident claimed the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey, the Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer and injured Capt. Richard MacDougall, the pilot of the aircraft.
A preliminary report released today, Monday, June 1, 2020, by the Canadian Forces said, “A detailed analysis of video footage recovered for the investigation revealed one bird in very close proximity to the aircraft right engine intake (see red circle in picture above) during the critical phase of take-off.” The preliminary remarks went on to read, “The investigation is focusing on environmental factors (birdstrike) as well as the performance of the escape system.”
The Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor that crashed was part of a two-aircraft formation takeoff participating in an Operation Inspiration flight in honor of health care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Video taken by viewers from the ground showed the aircraft take off in a two-ship formation as left wing, pitch up shortly after takeoff, bank left, enter a vertical descent in close proximity to the terrain, roll once, and then impact the terrain almost instantly after two ejection seats can be seen leaving the aircraft. The aircraft landed in the front yard of a house close to the airfield.
The two crew members landed in the same area after egress from the aircraft. Capt. Jennifer Casey did not survive the ejection and descent to the ground. Capt. Richard MacDougall survived but was injured. He was recently released from the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and has returned to his hometown to continue his recovery.
The preliminary crash investigation report also reads, “On 17 May 2020 the Snowbirds air demonstration team was scheduled to depart Kamloops, BC to reposition to Comox, BC as part of Operation INSPIRATION, an operation undertaken by 431 (AD) Sqn to travel around multiple sites across Canada to support COVID-19 front line workers. Aircraft CT114161 was #2 of a formation of two CT114 Tutor aircraft. Two occupants were on board the aircraft, the pilot and the team’s public affairs officer. After take-off aircraft CT114161 was observed gaining altitude and departing the formation. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft initiated a left turn, followed shortly by an abrupt steep nose low attitude. Both occupants subsequently ejected from the aircraft.”
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were deployed on Operation INSPIRATION, a cross-Canada tour to lift the spirits of Canadians and salute front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the May 17 accident took place.
“During any Flight Safety investigation, we focus on completing a thorough, accurate and professional investigation,” said Colonel John Alexander, Director of Flight Safety and Department of National Defence’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority. “While we might quickly understand what happened in an accident, the most difficult work of an investigation begins as we peel back the layers to understand why and how this happened.”
The CT-114 Tutor fleet, which was originally procured in the mid-1960s to train student pilots and then later modified for the needs of the Snowbirds, has been on an operational pause since the accident occurred. The 431 Squadron comprising the Snowbirds demonstration team are based out of 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The aircraft involved in the accident is still in Kamloops.