Snowbirds Crash Report Cites Lack Of Training

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The pilot who crashed a CT-114 Tutor during a photo flight with the Canadian Snowbirds in 2008 was not trained for the role that ultimately killed him and his onboard photographer, according to the flight safety report. Lead investigator Major Kevin Roberts told CTVNews that experienced pilot Captain Bryan Mitchell was maneuvering with the formation and was probably looking back over his shoulder at the formation when he flew the aircraft and his passenger, photographer Sgt. Charles Senecal, into the ground. The accident took place near the team's home of Moose Jaw, Sask. "Fluid maneuvering around a formation at low altitude is potentially a high-risk activity and typically involves specialized training," according to the report. Mitchell had not received such training. According to the report, that fact was "not fully considered" while planning the flight and was likely "overshadowed by his [Mitchell's] overall high experience level and reputation."

Mitchell was apparently holding in formation above and to the right of the performance team as the group flew in low-altitude, close formation. When the team rolled to enter a gentle banked turn to the right, Mitchell apparently elected to turn with them while keeping the group in view. In doing so, he would have been on the inside of the turn relative to the other aircraft. He would have had to slow down and descend while looking back and up to his left. This would keep the formation in his field of view but leave the ground out of it. At the same time, it would put the aircraft on trajectory to hit the ground. Witnesses say there was no indication that Mitchell attempted to avoid impact. The aircraft struck the ground right wing first, tumbled and broke apart.