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Sat, May 19, 2007

Canadian Snowbird Pilot Lost In Montana Accident

Plane Broke Formation During Practice

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 05.19.07 0002 EDT: We have waited until we were sure his family had been notified, but media sources are now confirming what we feared... Snowbird 2, Captain Shawn McCaughey (30), from Candiac, Quebec, was lost in Friday's tragic Snowbird practice session accident. Captian McCaughey was in his second year with the Snowbirds.

Prior to joining the Canadian Forces in 2000, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Physical Geography from Concordia University in Montreal and had earned a civilian commercial pilot's license.

According to his Canadian Forces bio, Captain McCaughey's entered the Canadian Forces in 2000, as a Direct Entry Officer (DEO). After receiving his wings on the CT-155 Hawk in 2003, he was posted to 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2CFFTS) in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, as a flying instructor on the CT-156 Harvard II, the NATO Flying Training in Canada Program's (NFTC) new training aircraft. During his tour, Captain McCaughey (pictured below) obtained over 500 instructional hours and earned an A2 instructional category.

ANN extends it condolences to the members and family of the CF Snowbirds... a truly amazing and accomplished group of airmen.

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 05.18.07 2200 EDT: A Canadian Forces Snowbirds demonstration team pilot was killed Friday afternoon when his CT-114 Tutor jet crashed near a Montana air force base.

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer told the Associated Press the aircraft broke formation, and crashed. No one was seen ejecting from the jet.

"It just smacked into the ground and there was a big ball of flames," witness Gillian Scarber told the Great Falls Tribune. She said the accident aircraft appeared to be coming out of a loop when the mishap occurred.

The Snowbirds were rehearsing for a performance this weekend at Malmstrom Air Force Base, according to Canadian Forces spokesman Lt. Jeff Noel. The identity of the pilot has not been released.

Another witness said he and his son watched as the accident occurred.

"My son said, 'Dad, look at their wings,'" Greg Dart said. "And as I looked, the wing wiggled up and it went straight down. It was less than a second before it hit the ground.

"The two planes came back, circled over the top and then went on," he said. "I didn’t see a chute -- that was the first thing I looked for -- but I didn‘t see anything. And they were so low that I can’t imagine anyone getting out."

The last incident involving the Snowbirds occurred in August 2005, when pilot Andrew Mackay was forced to bail out of his Tutor after it suffered engine failure. In December 2004, two Snowbirds jets experienced a midair collision during practice near Mossbank, Saskatchewan. That accident claimed the life of Capt. Miles Selby.

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 2003 study commissioned by the Canadian military recommended replacing the Snowbirds' Tutors with Hawks, although officials maintained the Tutors would be able to fly safely until 2020.

Friday's accident was the sixth Snowbird fatality in the team's 36-year history.

FMI: www.snowbirds.forces.gc.ca/site/index_e.asp

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