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Snowbirds Accident Attributed to Faulty Engine Oil Filter

Devils, Details, and the Great White North

The Snowbirds—known also as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron—are the military aerobatics flight demonstration team of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The team comprises eighty Canadian armed forces personnel, including 11 pilots and 24 show-team members who travel with the squadron. The aircraft in which the Snowbirds have performed since their 1971 inception is the CT-114 Tutor—a single-engine, jet trainer manufactured by Canadair and employed as the Canadian Forces’ standard training aircraft from 1960 through 2000.

On Tuesday, 2 August 2022, a Snowbirds aircraft suffered what Canadian military officials referred to—apocryphally—as a hard landing while departing North Peace Regional Airport (CYXJ) in Fort St. John, British Columbia. The aircraft was heavily damaged, prompting the Air Force to cancel all remaining performances in 2022. The pilot escaped injury.

Addressing the Fort St. John incident, the Operational Airworthiness Authority for the RCAF, Maj. Gen. Iain Huddleston stated: “Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft cannot be flown unless they are determined to be airworthy and safe to fly.”

Thereafter, the general summarily ordered the Snowbirds’ CT-114 Tutor fleet grounded pending a deliberate, detailed, and broad airworthiness risk-assessment.

Questioned about the likelihood of the Snowbirds resuming their 2022 performance schedule, the general remarked: “Given that the cause of this accident remains to be determined by the Airworthiness Investigative Authority, I have ordered an operational pause on the CT-114 Tutor fleet as we continue the investigation and commence a thorough operational airworthiness risk assessment process. “We will return the fleet to flying operations when it is safe to do so, and in accordance with our rigorous airworthiness program.”

In early October 2022, the Canadian Department of National Defense announced that a faulty oil filter had been determined to be the cause of the Fort St. John accident, and lifted the CT-114 grounding directive imposed by General Huddleston. In a public report, The air force's directorate of flight safety set forth that while the crash remains under investigation, the RCAF’s initial assessment indicated the Tutor’s oil filter had been assembled incorrectly, and that a malfunction of subject filter had caused the jet's single J85-CAN-40 turbojet engine to fail shortly after takeoff.

The report goes on to state: "The investigation is now analyzing the human factors that may have contributed to this occurrence.”

Regrettably, the Snowbird’s 2022 season shan’t resume.

The Canadian Department of National Defense’s report concludes: "Given that the team has not flown since the Aug. 2 accident, there is not enough time left for them to conduct the number of practices necessary to return to form for their scheduled shows. Accordingly, the team’s remaining scheduled performances for 2022 have been canceled."

To our Canadian friends, Aero-News Network offers the mantra embraced by millions of Chicago Cubs fans: There’s always next year.



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