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Thu, Oct 09, 2008

Two Lost In CT-114 Tutor Downing Near Snowbirds Base

Pilot Member Of Home Team, Passenger Was Base Photographer

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 10.09.08 2200 EDT: Canadian Forces officials have confirmed two people were killed in the Thursday afternoon downing of a CT-114 Tutor jet northwest of 15 Wing Moose Jaw.

The plane's pilot was a member of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds home team, and not a demonstration pilot, 15 Wing commander Col. Paul Keddy told reporters. His pilot was a military photographer from the base.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the members of the families and those involved most closely (with them) at 15 Wing," said Keddy.

The downed jet was flying formation with three other CF aircraft -- a CT-155 Hawk, CT-156 Harvard and a second Tutor, reports The Moose Jaw Times Herald. The aircraft impacted a field just over one mile from 15 Wing.

Identities of the victims have not been released, pending notification of the next of kin.

Major Robert Mitchell, commander of the Snowbirds, extended condolences on behalf of the show team, which is preparing for a weekend performance in San Francisco.

"On behalf of the members of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, I too would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of both individuals," Mitchell said. "As our show team sits here deployed in San Francisco, we're all deeply saddened at the loss of these great friends, amongst them an extraordinarily talented pilot from our home team back in Moose Jaw. They will be sorely missed."

Original Report

1815 EDT: Officials confirm a Canadian CT-114 Tutor training jet crashed near 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Thursday afternoon... but there's no word yet on possible survivors.

"There has been an incident," Capt. Genevieve Mitchell told The Vancouver Sun. 15 Wing is home to the Canadian Snowbirds demonstration team, which flies the 1960s-era training aircraft in their performances.

Officials would not say whether the jet that crashed was a Snowbirds plane; in addition to its high-profile role with the Snowbirds, the Tutor is also used in aircraft testing at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) in Cold Lake, Alberta.

A witness to the accident reported the crash to the Moose Jaw Times-Herald just after 12:30 pm local time.

"There were three together and two off to the side," said Doug Johnson, who lives near the base. He told the paper that smoke was coming from behind one of the aircraft, which he initially thought part of a demo routine... but he then realized the color of the smoke was wrong.

"When I turned to look back again, I saw one of the planes beeline into the ground," he added. Johnson did not see a parachute deployed, "but that doesn't mean it didn't happen."

Tutors have been involved in several high-profile accidents over the years. As ANN reported, Capt. Shawn McCaughey was lost when his CT-114 Tutor jet crashed near a Montana USAF base during a show rehearsal May 18, 2007. An investigation board determined McCaughey lost control of the aircraft when his lap belt unfastened while he was flying inverted.

The aging aircraft -- which were largely replaced by the Canadian military in 2000 with the British-Aerospace Hawk T1 -- have been involved in at least 13 major accidents since 1972. Those accidents included six fatalities when in service with the Snowbirds.

ANN will update this story as more information becomes available.

FMI: www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/site/equip/ct114/default_e.asp

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