Ejected Seconds Before Impact
ANN REALTIME News
Update, 08.25.05, 0621 EST: It now appears that the
loss of a single-engine Snowbird CT-114 Tutor may be the result of
power loss. According to published reports, Platoon Chief Al
Spooner of the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Fire and Rescue Service said
that, "The pilot told me that he was inverted, lost power, righted
the plane, tried to start it, it wouldn't start. He was at about
1,000 feet, so he bailed out of it." Spooner was responsible for
transporting Snowbird Pilot MacKay to the hospital.
Snowbird #1, Major Ian McLean, reported that MacKay also
reported to him that he had experienced a 'loss of engine thrust,'
"He took the appropriate checklist actions at that time and was
unable to regain sufficient thrust to keep the aircraft in the
air... He determined that it was time to eject from the
The accident occurred as the Snowbird team prepared for a
pending airshow with a series of control checks and "shakeout
maneuvers" conducted to ascertain readiness for a performance.
McLean noted that, "Obviously, the procedures paid off in this
The accident, and MacKay's safe ejection, took place just
minutes before a 1730 (Wednesday) performance that was scheduled in
front of a large gathering of expectant airshow attendees.
They were told, within minutes of the crash, that the
performance was canceled due to the loss of the aircraft.
Report: A jet belonging to the famed -- and troubled --
Canadian Snowbird aerial demonstration team suffered apparent
engine failure and was forced down Wednesday in northern
Ontario, as the team was enroute to perform at an air show.
The pilot of the CT-114 Tutor jet, 39-year-old Andrew Mackay
(right), ejected just moments before his plane impacted and
exploded in a field outside of Thunder Bay, Ont. Mackay is a
four-year veteran with the Snowbirds, and is reported to have more
than 4,800 hours of military stick time.
According to an eyewitness who was the first on the scene, the
pilot experienced engine trouble.
"When I first saw him I asked if he was OK, and he said yes and
said his engines failed," said Thunder Bay resident Dennis
Mackay is reported to be in stable condition at a Thunder Bay
Today's crash is the fourth accident to strike the Snowbirds
since 2000. In December 2004, two Snowbirds jets experienced
a midair collision during practice near Mossbank,
Saskatchewan. That accident claimed the life of Capt.
Miles Selby. The Snowbirds have dedicated their performances
in 2005, their 35th season, to Selby's memory.
Although loved by a Canadian public that reportedly views the
Snowbirds as an important symbol of pride in the national military,
the Snowbirds have increasingly fought budget cuts and threats of
disbandment. The team has also come under criticism within military
ranks in recent years, as being an unnecessary $10-million-per-year
drain on Canada's limited military resources.
The advanced age of the Snowbird's fleet of Tutors -- a training
airplane that first saw service in the 1960s, and was replaced by
the Canadian military in 2000 by the British-Aerospace Hawk T1 --
is also increasingly seen as a liability. A study commissioned by
the Canadian military in 2003 recommended replacing the Snowbirds'
Tutors with Hawks, although the officer in charge of purchasing new
aircraft for the Canadian Forces, Col. Dave Burt, maintains that
the Tutors will be able to fly safely until 2020.