One Dead, One Injured In RCAF Snowbirds Crash (Updated, Corrected)


Capt. Jennifer Casey, the public affairs officer for the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds has been identified as the crew member who died in the crash of one of the air demonstration team’s CT-114 Tutor jets. Capt. Richard MacDougall, the pilot of the aircraft and one of the coordinators, was seriously injured when the aircraft crashed into the yard of a house near the airport in Kamloops, British Columbia, late Sunday morning. The aircraft was one of two that took off together about 11:40 a.m. A video on Twitter by Shannon Forrest shows the aircraft pitching up sharply on takeoff before entering a spin that ended in a residential area in the city of about 100,000 in southern B.C. The video shows at least one ejection from the descending aircraft. MacDougall landed on the roof of neighboring house and was injured but the injuries are not believed to be life threatening. Two elderly occupants of the house hit by the aircraft were reportedly uninjured. It’s not clear if anyone else was hurt. The house was destroyed. Weather was reported as partly cloudy with scattered showers.

The Snowbirds were embarking on the final leg of their Operation Inspiration cross-country tour paying tribute to front line and essential workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had performed over Kamloops on Saturday and were due to travel to Kelowna, about 100 miles southeast, for flypasts there and in neighboring cities but low ceilings and rain prompted a change of plans. The team was instead headed to Comox, a Canadian Forces Base on Vancouver Island, about 200 miles west, when the plane crashed. It’s the second crash of a Snowbirds aircraft in less than a year. Last October, during warm-up for the Atlanta Air Show, a Tutor jet suffered an in-flight mechanical issue and the pilot safely ejected with the aircraft crashing in an unpopulated area.

An earlier version of this story stated that the video showed two ejections but authorities have only confirmed one ejection from the aircraft. The video shows two explosions but one appears to have been the jettison of the canopy before the pilot punched out.

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  1. My immediate first thought after watching the video is maybe it is about time Canada updates their show aircraft to something remotely modern enough to have zero-zero ejections seats. It seems like whatever went mechanically wrong with the plane resulted in at least one unnecessary death of a flight crew member.

  2. Impending engine failure, then pitched up to gain altitude and go around? Guess we’ll find out. The pilot must have landed on a bed to survive that. Beyond that, a 10 year old could write a clearer article than this professional reporter. Honestly, I don’t know why degrees are required for journalism. In describing the sequence of events, the author suddenly digresses into the maintenance people that generally accompany the Snowbirds. Also, the author makes it sound like the pilot hit the house and destroyed it. Please proof read the structure of your thoughts and sentences. Or hire me.

  3. Typical “Look at me! I’m the first to comment!” armchair analyses (Rick F. excepted).

    Two low-altitude punch-outs, one survived. Even “Maverick” couldn’t do better. In defense of the reporter, very few that get assigned such a story to write up (NOW!!!) have any background in military aviation (other than “Top Gun”) and are simply trying to regurgitate whatever “facts” that can immediately be gleaned from whomever might have been at the scene, in a somewhat grammatical manner. Cut him some slack. You probably couldn’t have gotten access to the Snowbird officials to get the factual information in the first place.

    And Stephen R.: A lot of the COVID-19 Honor Flights around the country were made by aircraft ‘way older than the Tudors. Yeah, that’s the answer: Ground them all.

    • If pilots operating privately funded older airplanes want to do tribute flights or anything else, it is their choice. The Snowbirds are not barnstormers, nor is their given purpose that of demonstrating vintage aircraft. They represent the Canadian government and all the other RCAF personnel in that service. They deserve a platform which is up to date and one which will give them the best chance of extricating themselves should a dire situation arise. Yes, I too agree that a more modern aircraft is in order if they are to continue.

    • Chip, thanks for the exemption. I actually had no beef with the scant facts available. It was the way they were organized that caused the confusion. The author actually wrote to me admitting it could have been clearer.

  4. Check out the video again.
    After the 180 turn & roll to just more than wings level did you see the ejection.
    Any pilot would NOT declare this as a spin as reported.
    So, with the airspeed looking OK etc, why the punch out? May never know.

    • I’m not sure which video you’re looking at, but the aircraft clearly goes through a 1 turn spin just before the ejection. The very start of the spin can’t be seen because the camera briefly moves off target at just about that point. Once the aircraft comes back into view it has spun 180 degrees and the belly is facing the camera. You can see it continue through the final 180 degrees of the spin followed by a brief recovery then ejection. This is not “rolling level” because the aircraft nose is pointed straight at the ground. Ejecting from this low of an altitude in a nose down vertical descent would be a challenge for any ejection seat.

    • Bob B, where do you see the airspeed is looking ok? To question even if they should have punched out at all is way off base. They were on their way to a tribute formation flight for health care workers, so they would have stayed in formation the whole way. Something caused the accident plane to pull up. It’s not even clear he was turning around as the spin did that for him. I’d put my money on a mechanical failure, though that is speculation. Even if he was trying to go around, he would not have deliberately pulled up so steeply, risking a stall. Top of my list would be engine failure, or a control issue (elevator?).

      • A “pitch up and out” maneuver is the standard formation emergency breakout maneuver in case of engine failure. Energy must be managed once clear of the formation. The two aircraft flew a flat departure and likely had some amount of excess energy. To my eyes, it looks like the mayday aircraft was executing an emergency turn back, perhaps using a semi-wing over technique but ran a little short of energy at the top.

  5. Impending engine failure? Then pull up?….don’t think so, this isn’t Reno. This was a take off/ accelerate “hold my beer and watch this” moment, not enough airspeed slow and low 1st mistake, punch out after plane was recoverable 2nd mistake. One person dead and a crash into a neighborhood not good PR for Snowbirds, there going to have to dig themselves out of a hole on this one. Aircraft age is meaningless.

    • Of course he’ll be asked. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to say he had plenty of airspeed, as you speculated. Regardless, his testimony will only be one part of all the evidence investigators will assemble.

  6. There is a video out now that appears to show a bird was ingested, and a separate video with a very noticeable bang from the engine at the same time. And, numerous reports that they are trained on low altitude engine failures to try to gain altitude, preferably 2000 feet before bailing out.

    Something clearly distracted him at the wrong time. Maybe he noticed the left turn put him over a residential neighborhood and then tried to keep it going too long in an effort to limit the collateral damage. One of those quick decision chains that can haunt someone for their entire life.