Military pilot recalls harrowing crash escape
Capt. Brian Bews, the pilot who escaped a spectacular CF-18 crash in southern Alberta, had just seconds to eject safely from the jet before it hit the ground and exploded.
In his first public appearance since the July crash, Bews said he was practising an "alpha pass" in Lethbridge for an air show when he knew something was wrong.
"It was obvious to me the jet wasn't acting like it normally acts," he told reporters in Calgary on Tuesday.
"It was two seconds worth of me trying to fight the jet. It looked like it was spiralling into the ground. It started to slide to one side and the nose started to drop.
"I knew where the jet was going and I didn't want to be there with it, so I knew my only chance of survival was to pull the ejection handle."
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.
"I remember in disbelief watching the canopy blow. I watched the jet turn on to its back and crash into the ground and explode … and then I hit the ground fairly hard after that.
"I was fortunate that the winds were fairly strong. It pulled the parachute away from the ring of fire."
Bews, from Eatonia, Sask., suffered compression fractures in three vertebrae, for which he is wearing a back brace.
"I got out of the jet two seconds before impact and I know that and I don't take that for granted," he said in an interview with CBC News.
Doctors told the pilot it will take up to 12 weeks for him to recover, but Bews said he's looking forward to getting back into the air.
An investigation into the exact cause of the crash is underway but Bews said he believes it was likely a problem with the right engine.
Bews credited the ejection seat, made by U.K. company Martin-Baker, with helping to save his life.
Mike Santoro, a former U.S. air force pilot who now works for Martin-Baker, said every pilot who safely ejects from the company's seats is given a tie and pin to commemorate the feat.
Santoro said a tie and pin set will be sent to Bews soon.