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Initial report on Snowbirds accident reveals a bird as possible cause

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron) perform over 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia on April 11, 2017. Photo: Sgt Halina Folfas, 19 Wing Imaging Services CX03-2017-0135-68 ~ Les Snowbirds des Forces canadiennes (431e Escadron de démonstration aérienne) donnent un spectacle au-dessus de la 19e Escadre Comox (Colombie-Britannique,) le 11 avril 2017. Photo : Sgt Halina Folfas, Services imagerie de la 19e Escadre CX03-2017-0135-68

The preliminary From the Investigator (FTI) report issued by the Department of National Defence of the Snowbirds accident in Kamloops on May 17, 2020, indicates that the aircraft accident involved a bird. Detailed video footage of the accident, which claimed the life of the team’s Public Affairs Officer, Captain Jennifer Casey, “revealed one bird in very close proximity to the aircraft right engine intake during the critical post-take-off phase.”

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were deployed on Operation INSPIRATION, a flyover Canada to lift the spirits of Canadians and salute front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the accident, Operation INSPIRATION has been delayed.

“During any Flight Safety investigation, we focus on completing a thorough, accurate, and professional investigation,” said Colonel John Alexander, Director of Flight Safety andDepartment of National Defence’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority. “While we might quickly understand what happened in an accident, the most difficult work of an investigation begins as we peel back the layers to understand why and how this happened. We are laser-focused to understanding everything we can about the accident so we can recommend effective preventative measures to help reduce the risk of future occurrences.”

A single bird (red circle) can be seen near the right engine intake during takeoff. Image: DND

The report provides a brief summary of the circumstances and factual information known at this time and does not offer full details about the accident. It provides areas of focus for the investigation, which is still ongoing. The flight safety investigation will focus on environmental factors (the bird strike) and the performance of the escape system, as is the case in all accidents involving ejections.  

“Our thoughts remain with Captain Jenn Casey’s family, the Snowbirds, and the Public Affairs Branch. I’m relieved to see that Captain Richard MacDougall has returned home and we wish him well in his continued recovery,” said LGen Al Meinzinger, Commander Royal Canadian Air Force. “The Snowbirds continue to represent the professionalism, discipline, and sense of team that are hallmarks of our institution. We are committed to safely returning them to the skies in due course.”

A thorough risk assessment is being conducted by the RCAF to return the fleet to flying operations. 

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