Snowbird Midair Surviving Pilot Reflects

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While most of us could never imagine pulling an ejection handle, imagine what was going through Capt. Chuck Mallett's mind when he reached for it and it wasn't there. "I had time to think about my family and that I may never see them again," Mallett told reporters in his first interview since surviving a midair collision with a fellow Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird pilot in December. Capt. Miles Selby, of White Rock, British Columbia, died in the collision, which occurred near the Snowbirds home base of Moose Jaw, Sask., Canada, last Dec. 10. Mallett, who is now back flying with the team as lead solo, said thorough training and "amazing coincidences of luck" helped him walk away from the accident. Mallett and Selby, the other solo, were practicing a spectacular maneuver called the co-loop in which two aircraft fly loops in opposite directions, crossing at the top and bottom. They were at the top of the loop when something went wrong (the preliminary report on the accident doesn't draw conclusions). Mallett suddenly found himself outside the aircraft, still strapped to his seat. He had to undo his harness while spinning wildly through the air to release the seat and allow his parachute to deploy. Coincidentally, just three days earlier, the team took part in a training exercise that covered the same scenario. After landing, he was driven to the crash scene of Selby's jet where he was told the tragic news. "... Essentially after that my memory is a little more shaky because I pretty much broke down." The Snowbirds have dedicated their coming season to the memory of Selby.