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Mon, May 21, 2007

Snowbird Accident Investigation Continues

Canadian Prime Minister Expresses Regret

A team from the Canadian Forces was to arrive in Montana Saturday to investigate the crash that took the life of Capt. Shawn McCaughey, a two-year member of the Snowbirds aerial demonstration team, reported CanWest News.

As ANN reported, McCaughey's jet was flying in formation Friday when it veered off heading, plummeting to the ground in Great Falls, MT.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his regrets at the death on Saturday.

"It is with great sadness that I learned about the accident that took the life of a decorated and talented pilot," Harper said.

"Captain Shawn McCaughey served our country with distinction, honor and professionalism. On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, my deepest sympathy goes out to his family, friends and fellow team members during this difficult time."

"Captain McCaughey was a highly skilled and experienced pilot who fulfilled the ultimate dream of joining our illustrious Snowbirds team. He was a positive role model and goodwill ambassador who truly personified the professionalism and dedication of all the women and men who make up our Canadian Forces. His family and friends can be proud of his accomplishments and contributions, as are all Canadians."

He added, "The Snowbirds are a world-renown aerial demonstration team and one of the most identifiable Canadian symbols. All Canadians take pride in their excellence and are forever grateful for the important work done by the Snowbirds and by all our military men and women."

According to the commander of the 15 Wing Moose Jaw, where the Snowbird team is based, there will be a temporary halt in Snowbird performances but the team would fly again this season.

"Canadian Forces Snowbirds are the finest members of the Canadian Forces - they represent the Canadian Forces' interests well, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so in the future."

Canadian Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor also issued a statement.

"This dedicated pilot and professional officer served as an ambassador of Canada by showcasing his skills and representing the best that the Canadian Forces has to offer. Captain McCaughey accumulated over 1,400 hours of military flying time before joining the 2007 Snowbirds team."

According to his father, Ken McCaughey, his son was going to be married next month in Montreal.

"In December, he got engaged on a boat with his fiancée and he was supposed to get married in three weeks time, on June 9," Ken McCaughey, 66, told The Canadian Press.

"This is unbelievable what's going on now for us and his fiancée. Today is her birthday," Ken McCaughey said.

Ken McCaughey said his son dreamed of becoming a pilot since he was a little boy and had described his job with the Snowbirds as "the best job in the world."

This was the first Snowbird crash since a pilot safely ejected from his jet just before it crashed before an August 2005 performance.

The fate of the Snowbirds squad has been hotly debated in recent years, with some critics calling for the decommissioning of their nine 43-year-old CT-114 Tutor jets.

The Snowbirds have flown their distinctive red-and-white planes before more than 100 million spectators since the team was formed. It is the only air force squadron still flying the Tutors, which have been phased out of service by the rest of the Canadian Forces.

The Snowbirds perform high-speed, low-altitude maneuvers in the Canadair CT-114 Tutors and are part of the Canadian Air Force.

FMI: www.snowbirds.forces.gc.ca

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