The Royal Canadian Air Force has confirmed the crash of a Snowbirds jet in Kamloops last year was due to a bird strike.
The CT-114 Tutor aircraft crashed into a house in Brocklehurst shortly after takeoff from Kamloops Airport on May 17, 2020, with Capt. Jenn Casey dying in the crash and pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall suffering injuries.
The investigation found that ingestion of a single, small bird into the engine of the aircraft following take-off resulted in a compressor stall and a loss of thrust. Upon loss of power, the pilot initiated a climb straight ahead and then a turn back towards the airport. During this manoeuvre, the aircraft entered into an aerodynamic stall and the pilot gave the order to abandon the aircraft.
The report stated MacDougall and Casey ejected from the aircraft at low altitude and in conditions that were outside safe ejection seat operation parameters. Neither the pilot nor the passenger had the requisite time for their parachutes to function as designed.
The report says that, following takeoff, a loud, impact-like sound was heard by MacDougall and Casey and the aircraft then experienced a loss of thrust. MacDougall initiated a climb straight ahead, then elected to carry out a left-hand turn back toward the airport. The manoeuvre resulted in an aerodynamic stall halfway through the turn before he gave the order to abandon the aircraft.
DNA evidence collected from the engine’s internal components confirmed the ingestion of a bird as witnessed from video evidence; however, the damage it caused was insufficient to cause a catastrophic failure. Rather, it resulted in a compressor stall that was never cleared.
The investigation recommends a directive be published which outlines the aircrew’s priority where an emergency during the takeoff or landing phase occurs and has the potential to result in an ejection near or over a populated area.
The investigation also recommends further training on engine-related emergencies be practised in the takeoff/low-level environment. It is also recommended that the practice of storing items between the ejection seat and the airframe wall cease immediately.
Finally, further research is recommended into the potential options that would stabilize the CT114 ejection seat from any tendency to pitch, roll or yaw immediately following its departure from the ejection seat rails.
“Snowbird 11’s power loss could not have come at a worse time — low altitude, low airspeed, proximity to another aircraft and in the vicinity of a built-up area,” said Col. John Alexander, director of flight safety with the Royal Canadian Air Force. “This tragic accident reinforces the importance of continuous, situation-specific training to minimize reaction time in an emergency and the importance of a timely decision to eject.”
Brigadier-General Denis O’Reilly, Commander 2 Canadian Air Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force, said the air force prides itself on operational flight safety.
“However, we recognize the inherent risk with military flying, despite the tireless work of our team of professionals to safely operate and maintain our aircraft. In emergency situations, pilots must make split-second decisions after quickly processing a lot of information, while at the same time dealing with high levels of stress, g-forces and other challenging environmental factors in the cockpit.
We are dedicated to learning from this accident and welcome the flight safety recommendations to minimize the chance of a repeat occurrence.”
O’Reilly offered thanks to the people of Kamloops, the members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Kúkpi7 First Nation, Skeetchestn First Nation and others in Canada and abroad for their outpouring of support.
The Snowbirds are currently training at 15 Wing Moose Jaw for the 2021 show season, with the air force noting safety-focused operational restrictions will continue to be in place for flying and maintenance activities. The Snowbirds squadron, which is based in Moose Jaw, Sask., was leaving Kamloops en route to Comox when the crash occurred. The squadron had been on an east-west cross-country tour called Operation Inspiration, designed to salute health-care workers and raise spirits of Canadians during the pandemic