Cold Lake pilot killed in crash

Investigators are searching for the cause of a CF-18 crash Monday that killed a 38-year-old pilot.

Investigators are searching for the cause of a CF-18 crash Monday that killed a 38-year-old pilot.

Capt. Kevin Naismith's plane went down mid-afternoon about 50 kilometres north of CFB Cold Lake, in the Primrose Air Weapons Range. Naismith, a member of the 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron, was taking part in an international air combat exercise.

Capt. Kevin Naismith

"He was a very good pilot, a friend to everyone on the squadron," Major John Argue said. "It's hurting our unit right now to lose someone like Kevin. We're going to miss him."

The husband and father of three was found in his parachute – which hadn't opened – about 200 metres from his burning plane.

"We're coping with a very tragic situation," Col. Bill Cleland, commander of 4 Fighter Wing, said. "Our first priority is now taking care of his wife and children."

A 13-member board of inquiry will begin its investigation at the crash site Tuesday, Cleland said. Investigators will look at the oxygen supply, listen to tapes recorded during the flight and search for evidence on the ground. The plane's fuel has already been tested and ruled out as a factor.

Naismith, who joined the Canadian Forces in 1991, had logged more than 2,000 hours on the aircraft. He was flying in a two-plane formation less than 1,000 metres above the ground when the crash occurred. There were about 50 planes in the air at the time.

Cleland said he didn't know why Naismith was killed in the crash, the second fatal accident involving the CF-18 since the military began using them. He said the aircraft's ejection seat was "a very reliable system."

He added the steepness of the dive may have prevented the pilot from ejecting earlier.

"I don't want to speculate," he said. "I don't know at what point the ejection was made. All I can say is, the pilot did not survive the ejection."

Base spokeswoman Capt. Leah Gillespie said weather was poor at the time but investigators don't know if it was a factor in the crash.

"The wingman didn't see the chute deploy, so if Capt. Naismith did try to eject, it would have been very late, and could possibly be part of the reason why he didn't survive accident," she said.

Naismith was taking part in an annual training exercise called Operation Maple Flag, an international air combat exercise that involves countries that include Canada, France, Belgium and the U.S. Members of Naismith's 416 squadron will sit out Tuesday's exercise.

Pilots participating in the training practise techniques such as dropping bombs and supplies.

About 16 CF-18s have crashed since the plane was introduced in 1982.