Months after fatal crash, the Snowbirds take flight in Kamloops

  • Sep. 1, 2020 2:55 p.m.
A pair of Canadian Forces Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor jets take off from Kamloops Airport on Tuesday morning. It marked the first time the iconic red ad white jets have been airborne since the May 17 crash in Kamloops that claimed the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injured the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall. The rest of the squadron’s planes will be flown to home base in Moose Jaw later this month. (Dave Eagles/KTW)A pair of Canadian Forces Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor jets take off from Kamloops Airport on Tuesday morning. It marked the first time the iconic red ad white jets have been airborne since the May 17 crash in Kamloops that claimed the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injured the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall. The rest of the squadron’s planes will be flown to home base in Moose Jaw later this month. (Dave Eagles/KTW)
A Snowbirds avionics crew member inspects one of the two Snowbirds jets, which departed Kamloops Airport on Sept. 1, 2020. (Dave Eagles/KTW)A Snowbirds avionics crew member inspects one of the two Snowbirds jets, which departed Kamloops Airport on Sept. 1, 2020. (Dave Eagles/KTW)
A Snowbirds jet gets ready for takeoff at the Kamloops Airport on Sept. 1, 2020. (431 Air Demonstration Squadron – Canadian Forces Snowbirds)A Snowbirds jet gets ready for takeoff at the Kamloops Airport on Sept. 1, 2020. (431 Air Demonstration Squadron – Canadian Forces Snowbirds)

Kamloops This Week

The first two of 10 Canadian Forces Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor jets grounded at Kamloops Airport were flown home to Moose Jaw on Tuesday morning.

Once back at base, the jets will be used to train other pilots in order to retrieve the remaining eight planes in about two weeks.

The jets have been grounded since a May 17 crash in Kamloops claimed the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injured the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall.

Speaking to reporters on the tarmac of Kamloops Airport before takeoff on Tuesday, Lt.-Col. Denis Bandet, the Snowbirds’ commanding officer, said the departure marked the beginning of the squadron moving forward with pilot and technician training for 2021.

READ MORE: One dead in Canadian Forces Snowbirds plane crash in Kamloops

The Royal Canadian Air Force has had a team of engineers examine the planes in preparation for their return home, Bandet said.

“We took the time to sit back and look at everything through a microscope,” he said.

“We went through every bit of systems on the airplanes, from the motors to the avionics to the structures, to make sure that everything we’re doing with the airplane is proper and ready to go ahead.”

Bandet said that process took time, which is why the jets have remained at the airport for the past three months.

“We’re happy at this point we’ve assessed the risk and that we have every confidence in the Tutor moving forward. I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t have the confidence in the airplane to get in,” Bandet said.

Bandet and Capt. Logan Reid flew the two jets out of Kamloops on Tuesday.

Capt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer with 19 Wing Comox, said the two jets will be used to train other pilots who require more flying time.

As the jets have sat for more than 90 days, additional flying time amongst the pilots is needed to get their currencies up, so permission was granted from Second Canadian Air Division commander Brig.-Gen. Denis O’Reilly to fly a minimal number of the jets to home base in Moose Jaw for training, Hejduk said.

She said those eight pilots will be in Kamloops within two weeks to fly the other eight jets to Saskatchewan .There will be a public service announcement issued at that time for their departure, but the RCAF has asked that members of the public refrain from visiting the airport to see the jets leave due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Bandet said they are excited to get back in the air and he hopes for an eventual return to normalcy reminiscent of the demonstration squadron’s operations in the past.

“On behalf of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian Armed Forces, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron and 15 Wing Moose Jaw, I want to extend my thanks to the community of Kamloops, the residents of Brocklehurst and the First Nations community,” Bandet said. “The outpouring of support has been outstanding and we felt it resonate all the way back to Moose Jaw — and it’s helped us get through this difficult period.”

READ MORE: Snowbirds can take to the skies again, three months after fatal B.C. crash

On May 17, a CT-114 Tutor Snowbirds jet leaving Kamloops Airport en route to its next stop on the cross-Canada Operation Inspiration tour crashed into a Brocklehurst neighbourhood, killing military public affairs officer Casey and injuring pilot MacDougall.

The entire fleet was then grounded pending a probe into the crash.

In June, the RCAF released a preliminary report, confirming it is exploring a bird strike as the possible cause of the crash. Video footage of the accident showed a bird in very close proximity to the plane’s right engine as it was taking off.

“The investigation is focusing on environmental factors [birdstrike] as well as the performance of the escape system,” the report stated.

In August, the fleet’s operational pause was lifted, with some flying restrictions, clearing the way for the planes to be flown back to base, though the investigation into the crash continues.

In the past few weeks, maintenance crews have been in Kamloops, ensuring the Snowbirds jets are ready to fly when the decision to take them back to Saskatchewan was made. Members of that crew recently spent a day of team bonding at the disc golf course on McArthur Island (that story is online at kamloopsthisweek.com).

Canadian Armed Forces

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

An Abbotsford man was killed in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 3 on Monday, Jan. 18. (Black Press file photo)
Abbotsford man killed in Highway 3 single vehicle crash near Hedley

Fatality was discovered by passing tow truck driver

(Black Press file photo)
Highway 3 cleared, open after vehicle incident

The road was closed for about three hours earlier on Jan. 18

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Interior Health confirms vaccination of priority populations has begun in Salmon Arm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccinations underway in Salmon Arm

Interior Health confirms vaccination of priority populations has begun

This is the location, 3240 Skaha Lake Road, of where BC Housing plans to build a four storey supportive housing project for the homeless and at risk of being homeless. (Jesse Day Western News)
Penticton mayor and MLA concerned about new BC Housing project

‘Penticton already has its fair share’ of BC Housing projects

Interior Health declared the COVID-19 outbreak at McKinney Place long term care home over Monday, Jan. 18, 2020. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at McKinney Place care home declared over

‘This has been one of our most challenging outbreaks so far,’ says chief medical health officer

Penticton Bylaw officer Glenn Smith, as well as resident Zak Laycock (not pictured), received the Governor General Award from the Royal Canadian Humane Association to recognize their heroism in a summer 2019 incident. (Contributed)
Bylaw officer and Penticton resident given awards for intervening in sexual assault

Bylaw officer Glenn Smith said he was simply in the right place at the right time

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

Hillview Elementary students Emma Li and Mina Nadeau were awarded by the Premier’s office for winning the annual holiday card contest. (Karen Rogers photo)
North Okanagan students’ art featured on Premier’s cards

Hillview youth chosen for annual holiday card contest

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Most Read