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Expert urges patience as calls grow for Snowbirds to get upgraded aircraft

Canadian Forces Snowbirds (Courtesy: Abbotsford Airshow @AbbyAirshow)

There are questions as to the safety of the planes the CF Snowbirds are using after Sunday's deadly crash

An expert warns not to jump to any conclusions, says it's important to wait for investigative findings

Former air force pilot says 'old isn't always bad' when it comes to planes

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We should wait and see what the investigation into Sunday’s crash yields, an expert says, as calls grow for the CF Snowbirds to get new planes.

Given the Snowbirds fly jets that were built in the 1960s, some are reacting to this weekend’s deadly crash in Kamloops by suggesting it’s time for an upgrade.

The CT-114 Tutors are nearly 60 years old, and in fact were supposed to be pulled out of service in 2010.

But a decade later, they’re still flying — despite a Defence Department report in 2003 urging for the Tutors to be ideally replaced by 2008.

Still, former air force pilot David McNair, who has also worked as a Transportation Safety Board investigator, says we should wait for the completion of the investigation into this crash before rushing to judgment.

“The Tutor is actually a good airplane for aerobatics,” says McNair. “It doesn’t have as high G-load as some other airplanes do. There are some maneuvers that take quite a bit of rolling G, which is tough on the airplane. But I’m sure they’re checking those areas, because there were problems before, making sure those parts are working the way they’re supposed to.”

While admiring the planes’ ability to perform tricks, McNair acknowledges there are challenges in trying to keep aircraft that old in the air.

“Old isn’t always bad,” says McNair. “The flight control system is a very simple system. It hasn’t changed much over the years, if at all. Certainly, the instrumentation has changed to keep up with the avionics and they’ve obviously had to do some beefing up of the structure because, as any airplane gets older, they have to make sure certain areas don’t have any fatigue issues.”

McNair points out that given one of the two people on board survived, that should also give investigators more information about what went wrong.

Amid suggestions the CT-114 Tutors should be pulled, a former chief of defence staff has also come out to defend the jets, adding the 54-year-old Tutor is a “fantastic” aircraft.

Retired general Tom Lawson says he understands why some people would be questioning the safety of the planes given their age, but notes the planes are in good condition and have been well maintained over the decades by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Captain Jennifer Casey was killed when the plane she was on went down around noon on Sunday.

The CF Snowbirds were on a cross-country flight called Operation Inspiration, meant to boost the morale of Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot, Captain Richard MacDougall, suffered serious injuries, however, the Royal Canadian Air Force has said they aren’t considered life threatening.