Snowbirds Grounded Indefinitely


The Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds air demonstration team has been grounded indefinitely because of a runway accident in early August. The RCAF says it will “conduct a deliberate, detailed and broad risk analysis, with the aim of enabling the safe resumption of CT-114 flying operations.” No timeline has been offered to get the aircraft flying again. The team has 10 airshows booked for the balance of the season including three U.S. appearances at Huntington Beach, San Francisco and Santa Maria, California, in October. 

On Aug. 2, one of 20 Tutors operated by the demo team was damaged when the pilot was forced to put the aircraft back on the ground just after taking off from an airport in Fort St. John in northern British Columbia. The pilot, who was not one of the show pilots, was not injured. The plane was not used in the team’s performance, and the 11 aircraft used for shows had already left for their next airshow. The RCAF has not released any circumstances surrounding the mishap and says it will announce the cause after the investigation is complete. Only the Snowbirds fly the Tutors, which served as the main flight training aircraft for the RCAF until 2000.

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  1. …hate to be the one to say it, but when the size of your demo team approaches the size of your tactical fleet, maybe it’s time to reexamine the goal. RCAF is not unique in this…perhaps a front line acft solo jet demo.

  2. Don’t the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds use maintenance data to track things like wear rates, component life, and maintenance trends in order to apply to the same models of aircraft in service? I had thought that was one of the arguments on the plus side of using current combat aircraft in demo teams.

    • Should do, but how many Tutors are still in service?
      Answer: only the few operated by the Canadian demonstration team.

      (It was the primary trainer of Canadian Forces, 190 built, good reputation but superseded by newer airplanes.
      A few were for Malaysian forces as ground attack aircraft but retired years ago.)

      RCAF has long experience with them.

      It’s a single engine turbojet so vulnerable, fatal accident in Kamloops was caused by engine problem, likely a bird ingested. (Ejection seats are of concern, being worked on I gather, ejection at YKA was at very low altitude.)

      A number of mishaps and worse in recent years.

    • Aircraft maintenance requires dedicated people with knowledge.

      Special teams like the Snowbirds should have own team, not the slackers CF and USAF had doing line maintenance a few decades ago. (One Canadian heavy maintenance contractor had a debate with CF over signing out an airplane, work package was structural inspection but peripheral aspects of the airplane not in the package were not acceptable to contractor’s people for release to service (they maintained their own aircraft to a higher standard).)

      We’ll have to see what investigation of the mishap at CYXJ reveals, and a review of the fleet and overall status I expect will be done.