The Snowbirds have returned to Kamloops for a short, impromptu pit-stop en route to spring training.
Ten CT-114 Tutor jets touched down at the Kamloops Airport, with a lone jet coming in at about 11:45 a.m. and three sets of three planes touching down successively in the early afternoon, social media posts from eyewitnesses showed Tuesday (May 4).
In a public service announcement the Canadian Forces said the Snowbirds made a last-minute decision to stop in Kamloops to refuel before making their way to Comox for spring training.
The planes were expected to depart the airport Tuesday afternoon.
The stop comes almost one year following the tragic crash of a Snowbird plane that killed the squadron's public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey and injured pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall.
“While the team is glad to have the opportunity to stop in Kamloops again, the stop is also bittersweet as it reminds us of our tremendous lost last year,” the Canadian Forces PSA stated. “Capt. Casey’s legacy of inspiration will continue to be honoured by her team and throughout our 2021 season.”
Snowbirds public affairs officer Capt. Gabriel Ferris told KTW the balance was tipped to stop in Kamloops over Kelowna when a weather system between the two towns ended up moving over the Okanagan.
“It’s also the first time we’re going back [to Kamloops] since September,” Ferris said.
While the visit is purely operational, Ferris said the squadron also wanted to show its appreciation for Kamloops and all that its residents did in supporting them following the crash last year with the flyby.
On May 17, 2020 the Snowbird plane carrying MacDougall and Casey fell out of the sky over Brocklehurst.
The Snowbirds had arrived in the Tournament Capital a day earlier as part of their cross country Operation Inspiration Tour to lift the spirits of Canadians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crashed plane landed in the front yard of a home at 2454 Glenview Ave., damaging part of the home. Both occupants ejected from the aircraft, with MacDougall landing on the roof of 868 Schreiner St.
No members of the public were reportedly hurt in the crash.
The Royal Canadian Air Force investigation that followed 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.
An outpouring of grief followed the crash in Kamloops as multiple people would pay their respects to Casey by attending the chain link fence just outside the airport along TRanquille Road, creating a massive makeshift memorial by pinning an assortment of tributes, including flowers, Canadian flags and messages on the barrier.
The remaining Snowbird Jets were grounded at the Kamloops Airport for months while investigators looked into the crash. The planes were eventually flown back to their home base in Moose Jaw, Sask. on Sept. 1, 2020.
The Royal Canadian Air Force released its final report on the cause of the crash this past March, which included, among others, a recommendation of further training on engine-related emergencies be practised in the takeoff/low-level environment.