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Air Force report points to bird strike as possible cause of fatal Snowbirds crash
TORONTO -- The May 17 crash that killed a member of the Snowbirds team and injured a pilot may have been caused by a bird, an investigator revealed Monday.
"A detailed analysis of video footage recovered for the investigation revealed one bird in very close proximity to the aircraft right engine intake during the critical phase of take-off," the investigator with the Department of National Defence’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority said in a brief statement.
Both occupants of the CT-114 Tutor aircraft ejected and the plane was destroyed after it crashed into a residential neighbourhood in Kamloops, B.C.
The probe into the crash will focus on a bird strike, along with the performance of the jet’s escape system, the statement said.
National Defence said Monday that the report “is a brief summary of the circumstances and factual information known at this time. It does not provide full details surrounding the accident, but rather indicates the areas of focus for the investigation, which remains underway.”
The department also said that escape systems are investigated in all accidents involving ejections.
“During any flight safety investigation, we focus on completing a thorough, accurate and professional investigation,” said Col. John Alexander, director of flight safetyandtheDepartment 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. We are laser-focused to understanding everything we can about the accident so we can recommend effective preventative measures to help reduce the risk of future occurrences.”
The Snowbirds’ public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey, a 35-year-old native of Halifax, was killed and pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall, 38, who hails from Dieppe, N.B., continues to recover from his injuries.
The air demonstration team was undertaking a cross-Canada Operation Inspiration flyovers of communities to lift spirits during the pandemic and salute front-line workers when the crash occurred. Two aircraft were heading from Kamloops to Comox and departed from Kamloops airport side by side. Just seconds into the flight, one jet veered off and gained altitude, before quickly entering a steep nose dive and crashing.
The CT-114 Tutor fleet has been grounded since the accident occurred. The Royal Canadian Air Force says it aims to return the jets to operations once a risk assessment is complete.
“The Snowbirds continue to represent the professionalism, discipline and sense of team that are hallmarks of our institution. We are committed to safely returning them to the skies in due course,” Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger, Royal Canadian Air Force commander, said Monday.
Casey’s remains were flown back to Halifax in a CC-130J Hercules on May 24 after a private ceremony for her Snowbirds teammates was held in B.C. Military members carried her flag-draped casket from the aircraft, which was carried in a police-escorted motorcade through Halifax to a funeral home.
People stood along streets and highway holding Canadian and Nova Scotian flags in tribute.