The investigation into the accident involving a CT114 Tutor aircraft from the CAF Air Demonstration Team (Snowbirds) en route to Comox, BC, has concluded.
The Directorate of Flight Safety, as the Airworthiness Investigative Authority for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), conducted the investigation.
The accident took place on May 17, 2020, in the Kamloops region, British Columbia, and claimed the life of Captain Jenn Casey and injured Captain Richard MacDougall.
Commander 2 Canadian Air Division
Brigadier-General Denis O’Reilly, Commander 2 Canadian Air Division, RCAF expressed that “the Royal Canadian 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.
I wish to thank the people of Kamloops, the members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Kúkpi7 First Nation, Skeetchestn First Nation, and all supporters in Canada and abroad for their outpouring of support to 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron during this very difficult time.”
The accident took place when the CT114 Tutor aircraft from the CAF Air Demonstration Team was en route to Comox, BC, to reposition in support of Op INSPIRATION. The plane was number two of a formation of two Tutor aircraft.
The investigation found that ingestion of a single, small bird into the engine of the aircraft ‘Snowbird 11’ following takeoff resulted in a compressor stall and a loss of thrust.
Once power was lost, 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.
“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. 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,” stated Colonel John Alexander, Director of Flight Safety, Royal Canadian Air Force.
The pilot and passenger 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.
Recommendations in Report
Recommendations in the report identified the need to conduct additional training for CT-114 aircrews to better prepare them for an engine failure after take-off in a low-level environment, clarify the command to ‘eject,’ publish a directive to clarify how aircrew should prioritize an ejection-scenario near or over a populated area, and research potential options to stabilize the ejection seat from any tendency to pitch, roll, or yaw.
The report recommends further training on engine-related emergencies be practiced in the takeoff/low-level environment.
It was also recommended that the practice of storing items between the ejection seat and the airframe wall cease immediately.
Further Research Recommended
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.
The complete findings of the investigation and recommended preventative measures are publicly accessible in the CT114161 Flight Safety Investigation Report here.
The press released noted the Casey family had been briefed on the CT114161 Flight Safety Investigation Report and did not wish to comment at this time.
The 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron is currently training at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Sask., for the 2021 Show Season. Safety-focused operational restrictions will continue to be in place for flying and maintenance activities.