Snowbirds resuming flying operations 3 months after fatal crash in BC

A photo of a Snowbird CT-114 Tutor taken in August 2020. (Government of Canada/Website)

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Snowbirds are allowed to fly again following a crash in Kamloops, BC on May 17 that killed Capt. Jennifer Casey. However, the Snowbirds won’t be doing any more shows this year.

The commander of 2 Canadian Air Division, Brig.-Gen. Denis O’Reilly, lifted the operational pause on Monday.

“The risk analysis for the CT-114 Tutor fleet undertaken by the airworthiness authorities and their teams of experts was detailed and thorough. I have the utmost confidence in their work, and the mitigation measures developed. These measures will enable the fleet to return to flying operations,” said O’Reilly in a news release.

Risk mitigation measures include some restrictions on flying operations and increased maintenance.

A Directorate of Flight Safety (DFS) investigation into the accident is ongoing, said the release. Once it’s complete, the RCAF will determine if further mitigation measures are required.

The investigation is focusing on a birdstrike and the performance of the escape system as possible causes, as is the case in all ejection-related accidents. A preliminary From the Investigator report was published on June 1.

The aircraft in Kamloops will return to the squadron’s home base in Moose Jaw, Sask., which is expected to take place over the next two weeks.

“The Snowbirds continue to mourn the loss of Captain Jennifer Casey. The best way we can honour her is to get back into operations in a safe and deliberate manner,” said Lt.-Col. Denis Bandet, the squadron’s commanding officer.

“While we are saddened that the 2020 air demonstration season is officially cancelled, and that we will not be completing Operation Inspiration, the team is looking forward to getting back in the air and starting to train for next year’s season.”

The Snowbirds were set to do a cross-country tour, called Operation Inspiration, to pay tribute to frontline workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A separate Snowbirds accident happened in Georgia in October 2019. The DFS investigation into that crash determined that the most probable cause of the accident was a fuel delivery system failure within the engine.