Capt. Brian Bews successfully ejects from a CF-18 Hornet before it crashes and explodes at the Lethbridge airport on July 23. ( ((Ian Martens/Lethbridge Herald/Canadian Press) )

A Canadian Forces pilot hailed for ejecting from a fighter jet moments before a crash a year ago is now working as a flight instructor in Saskatchewan.

Capt. Brian Bews was making a low-speed pass at low altitude on a practice run for the Alberta International Airshow on July 23, 2010, when he had to eject from the jet seconds before it smashed into the airstrip at the Lethbridge airport.


Capt. Brian Bews, seen in a photo taken in California in 2007, made a full recovery. ((Courtesy John Wright))

The one-year anniversary of the crash has brought back many memories, said Bews in a recent interview from CFB Moose Jaw.

"It has all kind of sunk in," he said. "It was a pretty phenomenal day when you consider what happened. The more I learn about what happened I just realize how lucky I am. A whole bunch of things came together to keep me alive and allow me to fly again."

For example, strong winds caused issues during the flight, but also pulled his parachute away from the fire, he said.

"I didn't know at the time, but I had some sort of a problem with an engine," he said.

"I was trying to fight it with the flight controls, but it just wasn't enough. I had to try and fly the airplane. It wasn't doing what I wanted it to do, so as the nose kept pulling down, the only thing left to do was to pull the handle and go for the ride."

In four seconds, the ejection seat – powered by a rocket motor  – blew off the jet's canopy, catapulted Bews away from the CF-18 Hornet and deployed his parachute.

Pilot talks to students about decision

Bews has viewed the video of the crash many times. He said it still amazes him how quickly everything happened.

"Before I hit the ground, there really wasn't a moment to spare at all and now I'm the guy in charge of teaching the ejection versus forced landing decision making here at Moose Jaw," he said.

"I watch that video a lot. I talk to the students about it, what kind of a thought process has to go into pulling the handle or landing an airplane without an engine."

Bews spent six months recovering from back injuries before he could return to the cockpit, but he says he no longer has any back or muscle pain.

Even before the crash, his plan was to be a flight instructor, although he said he does miss the airshow circuit.