British Columbia

Snowbirds won't fly in upcoming festival, airshow in B.C. after jet's takeoff incident

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be flying in an upcoming festival and likely a major summer airshow in B.C. after one plane in the fleet was damaged when a takeoff went wrong on Tuesday.

Flight team will miss Penticton Peach Festival, Abbotsford Airshow as investigation into grounded plane begins

Two planes with red-coloured wings pass each other in the sky.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are seen performing at a drive-in airshow in London, Ont. on Aug. 27, 2021. One of the team's CT-114 Tutor aircraft was damaged in an incident at the airport in Fort St. John, B.C., on Tuesday. (Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be flying in an upcoming festival and likely a major summer airshow in B.C. after a plane in the fleet was damaged when a takeoff went wrong on Tuesday.

The Department of National Defence said the team will not perform at the Penticton Peach Festival on Wednesday after a CT-114 Tutor aircraft was damaged at the airport in Fort St. John, B.C.

"[The] aircraft will not be flown while a Royal Canadian Air Force flight safety team investigates to determine the cause of the incident," read a statement Wednesday morning.

The department said it's also likely the Snowbirds won't perform in the Abbotsford Airshow this weekend.

"The CF Snowbirds, while disappointed to not be able to attend, wish both the Penticton Peach Festival, Abbotsford Air Show and all the attendees the very best," the statement concluded.

First responders were called to the North Peace Regional Airport in Fort St. John after the Snowbird aircraft went down Tuesday afternoon.

The jet, which had completed a weekend show in the remote city in the northeastern part of the province, apparently stalled after takeoff, a defence source told CBC's Murray Brewster.

The pilot managed to turn the jet around, return to the airfield and land, but the aircraft blew past the end of the runway, said the source, who was familiar with the accident but not authorized to speak publicly.

A Snowbird aircraft down in a field
A Canadian Forces Snowbird aircraft went down after takeoff from the North Peace Regional Airport on Tuesday. (Dave Lueneberg/Alaska Highway News)

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Air Force said it's too early to say what caused the incident and an investigation is underway. It's unclear how long the investigation will take, but he said the results would be made public.

The statement Wednesday did not explain how the plane had been damaged.

According to Maj. Trevor Reid, the pilot wasn't physically hurt but paramedics took them to hospital for assessment.

The airport's fire department extinguished a fire in the plane before city crews arrived.

"We certainly are very appreciative of the swift response by the Fort St. John airport fire rescue services," Reid said.

Several appearances by the Snowbirds have been cancelled this year because of a problem with the aircraft's ejection parachute deployment. 

On May 17, 2020, a CT-114 Tutor Snowbird aircraft went down in Kamloops, B.C.

The crash killed Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds. The pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall, suffered significant injuries after crash landing on the roof of a house.

Investigators determined a bird strike caused the crash.

With files from Murray Brewster, Betsy Trumpener and Kate Partridge

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