Bird strike blamed in fatal crash of Canadian military Snowbird jet

Bird strike blamed in fatal crash of Canadian military Snowbird jet-Milenio Stadium-Canada
The investigation into the crash of a Snowbird jet May 17, 2020 that killed Capt. Jenn Casey focussed on a possible bird strike. A red circle shows an object, believed to be a bird, near one of the aircraft’s engine intake. (Submitted by the Royal Canadian Air Force)

A bird strike, causing an engine compressor failure, has been formally declared as the cause of last year’s fatal crash of a Canadian military Snowbird demonstration jet in Kamloops, B.C.

Snowbird investigation focusing on possible bird strike before fatal crash

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Directorate of Flight Safety released its final report Monday into the accident, which took place on May 17, and killed Capt. Jenn Casey, the public affairs officer for the aerobatics team.

The investigation found that a single, small bird was sucked into the engine of the aircraft – Snowbird 11 – following take-off.

That resulted in a compressor stall and a loss of thrust as the aircraft was trying to climb.

Jenn Casey-Milenio Stadium-Canada
The final report said Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died after she was ejected from the aircraft “at low altitude and in conditions that were outside safe ejection seat operation parameters.” (Submitted by Royal Canadian Air Force)

Upon loss of power, the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall, tried to turn back towards the airport and during the maneuver “the aircraft entered an aerodynamic stall and the pilot gave the order to abandon the aircraft,” the military said in a statement.

“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, the Air Force’s director of flight safety.

Emergency training needed

The 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,” he added.

In a preliminary report issued in June of last year, investigators said video footage from the crash showed a bird was very close to the right-side air intake of the aircraft’s single engine during takeoff. It’s possible the bird struck the air intake, the report suggested.

Such strikes are not uncommon. As a matter of routine, flight planners are expected to take careful precautions against bird strikes, especially during migratory season.

Video of the crash taken by an eyewitness shows, as the jet was climbing, a small bird unexpectedly appeared in front of the jet and was sucked into the air intake of the right engine.

The aircraft turned and went into a steep nose dive before hitting the ground in a residential neighbourhood.

The final report said MacDougall and Casey, originally from Nova Scotia, were ejected from the aircraft “at low altitude and in conditions that were outside safe ejection seat operation parameters.”

Richard MacDougall-Milenio Stadium-Canada
The report found that there wasn’t enough time for Capt. Richard MacDougall’s parachute to function. He has recovered from the crash. (Submitted by Royal Canadian Air Force)

Neither of them had the time for their parachutes to function.

The jet was destroyed on impact.

MacDougall was injured and has recovered.

The flight safety report recommends additional training for CT-114 aircrew to better prepare them for an engine failure after take-off in a low-level environment.

It also recommends changes to the ejection procedure.


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