Earlier this afternoon the Department of National Defence’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority issued the report from the investigator in relation to the fatal CF-18 accident of November 28, 2016, near 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta that took the life of Captain Thomas McQueen.
Training in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, the report noted that Captain McQueen, call sign Swift 32, was part of a two-ship formation led by call sign Swift 31. The two planes were participating in an unopposed air interdiction continuation training mission. The mission was to deliver two MK83 inert bombs followed two Laser Guided Training Rounds, simulating laster guided bombs.
“To avoid the simulated bomb fragmentation after dropping their bombs each pilot would fly a safe escape maneuver” comprising a 5 g level turn (which requires a 78 degree bank angle to maintain level flight) through 90 degrees of heading change,” stated the report.
“The formation departed Cold Lake Airport (CYOD) and proceeded at low altitude under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) to the target area, approximately 90 km east of CYOD. The accident occurred on the third weapons pass over the target, with Swift 31 flying about 2 miles in trail of Swift 32 and lasing the target for Swift 32, who dropped an LGTR. The ingress to the target was flown at approximately 500 feet above ground level (AGL) to stay clear of an overcast cloud layer based at approximately 800 to 900 ft AGL.
“Based on Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) data, Swift 32 released his LGTR then initiated the safe escape maneuver at about 450 ft AGL, entering a 5.6g left turn and rolling left to a bank angle of 118 degrees. The aircraft initially gained 50 feet of altitude before the nose of the aircraft began to slice towards and then below the horizon, eventually reaching a flight path angle (FPA) of minus 18 degrees.
“The aircraft then began rolling right and the bank angle reduced to 77 degrees left bank, and the FPA reduced to minus 15 degrees just prior to ground impact. Swift 31 saw the explosion, confirmed visually that Swift 32 had crashed, noted a parachute at the side of the ground scar and transmitted a Mayday call, which was relayed to CYOD air traffic control by another flight of CF188s. There were no radio transmissions from Swift 32, he did not eject and was fatally injured when the aircraft struck the ground in a descending left turn.
“The investigation is continuing to examine all the operational and technical factors that may have played a role in the accident.”