Saskatchewan

Snowbird crash report cites inexperience

An Armed Forces report on the fatal crash of a Snowbird jet near CFB Moose Jaw in 2008 says there were no mechanical problems and the pilot may simply have lost awareness of how low he was flying.

An Armed Forces report on the fatal crash of a Snowbird jet near CFB Moose Jaw in 2008 says there were no mechanical problems and the pilot may simply have lost awareness of how low he was flying.

The air force investigation also found the pilot had not received any formal low-level awareness training.

The Oct. 9 crash of the CT-114 Tutor jet killed the pilot, Capt. Bryan (Mav) Mitchell, 46, and a military photographer, Sgt. Charles (Chuck) Senecal, 49.

Their mission was to take publicity photos of three other planes as they flew past the Saskatchewan base, which is officially known as 15 Wing.

As the formation turned, the Tutor, a reserve Snowbird jet, descended slowly before hitting the ground northwest of the base and south of the city of Moose Jaw.

At the instant of the crash into a grain field, the plane was tipped to the right with the nose slightly low and the brakes extended.

"No radio calls were made and no ejection was attempted," said the air force flight safety report released Wednesday. "Both occupants of the aircraft were killed instantly."

The investigation determined the aircraft was airworthy and the environment was not a factor.

The report concludes the problem was "loss of situational awareness." Mitchell did not realize his aircraft had descended dangerously low, "likely due to his attention being fixated on aircraft in the formation, resulting in a controlled flight into terrain."

Mitchell did not have experience flying photo-chase missions or manoevring around a formation at low altitudes, the report said.

Recommendations include requiring pilots involved in such missions to receive low-level awareness training. The report also said better guidance is needed for pilots on how to conduct photo-chase missions.

People involved in the planning and authorization of the mission underestimated the risks of an aircraft manoeuvring around other aircraft at low altitudes, the report said.

At the time of the crash, the Snowbirds, the Canadian Forces aerobatics team, were in California for a performance. Mitchell had recently been appointed to the team and would have been flying with the Snowbirds in the next season.