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Initial report says no pre-existing problem with Snowbirds jet

Dec. 22, 2008, Saskatoon, Sask. - A preliminary investigation into the fatal crash of a Snowbirds Tutor jet couldn't find any pre-existing technical problem with the aircraft.


December 22, 2008
By Chris Purdy

Dec. 22, 2008, Saskatoon, Sask. – A preliminary investigation into the fatal crash of a Snowbirds Tutor jet couldn't find any pre-existing technical problem
with the aircraft.

And there is no evidence that a bird struck the jet, says a
military board of inquiry's initial report released Monday.

"That doesn't mean that the technical analysis later on won't
come up with something that we didn't see on the ground,'' said
Lt.-Col. Larry McCurdy with the Air Force Directorate of Flight
Safety.

Capt. Bryan Mitchell, the pilot, and military photographer Sgt.
Charles Senecal died Oct. 9 when the Tutor crashed in a farmer's
field a few kilometres from the aerobatic team's home base at 1
Wing, Moose Jaw, Sask.

McCurdy said several aspects of the investigation are continuing
and the jet's remains must still be studied by engineers.

"So I won't say there was nothing wrong with the airplane when
it crashed, because there may well have been,'' he said. “But right
now the focus of the investigation is on human factors.''

The Tutor had been flying behind a CT-155 Hawk, CT-156 Harvard II
and another Tutor so that Senecal could take publicity photos.

The report said the other three jets were flying in formation,
about 90 metres above the ground, and the "chase'' Tutor was
following at a higher altitude when it began to descend, roll with
the other three but fly at a slightly convergent path.

"It continued in this steady descending turn until it impacted
the ground,'' the report said. “Both occupants were killed
immediately and the aircraft was destroyed.''

The three other jets returned safely to the ground.

Despite a sighting of a parachute opening over a field near the
crash site, the two men did not attempt to eject from the jet, the
report said.

It also said that at the time of impact, the jet's speed brakes
were extended and the landing gear and flaps were retracted.

A final report outlining conclusions, factors that probably
caused the crash and recommendations for pilots on photo-chase
missions is expected next fall.

The deadly crash was the second in just over a year involving the
Tutor, renewing calls that the 1960s-vintage aircraft should be
retired.

In May 2007, Capt. Shawn McCaughey died after the seatbelt in his
Tutor came unbuckled during a roll, causing him to fall out of his
seat and lose control of the jet during an air show practice at
Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls, Mont.

THE CANADIAN PRESS