Major-General Iain Huddleston, Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division and the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Operational Airworthiness Authority, has lifted the operational pause on the CT-114 Tutor fleet effective September 20.

The operational pause was implemented following an accident involving a 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron (known as the Snowbirds) CT-114 Tutor aircraft on August 2, 2022 in Fort St. John, B.C. The Operational Airworthiness Authority implemented the operational pause on August 8 after consulting with the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety (DFS) investigators and with experts from the Technical Airworthiness Authority within the Department of National Defence’s Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel).

An operational pause means aircraft (either specific aircraft or a fleet) temporarily stop flying until an operational airworthiness risk assessment can be completed, and it is safe for flying operations to resume. In this case, the accident remains under investigation by DFS, but the investigation to date has yielded enough information for a thorough risk assessment to be conducted. The initial From the Investigator report from DFS has been released and confirmed that the engine failure was due to an improperly assembled oil filter. The investigation is now analyzing the human factors that may have contributed to this occurrence.

The team will resume flying at their home base of 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Sask. this week. Next week, the Snowbirds’ CT-114 aircraft currently in Penticton and Fort St John, B.C. will begin returning to 15 Wing.

The type of precision flying in the Snowbirds’ aerobatic performances requires a very high level of proficiency, which in turn necessitates a great amount of practice. Given that the team has not flown since the August 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 cancelled.

“Thanks to the thoroughness of our investigative processes, we have been able to conduct a complete risk analysis that has shown it is safe for the CT-114 Tutor fleet to resume flying. While we are all very pleased the team can resume flying, the decision to cancel their remaining performances was a difficult one. Looking forward, we will provide the Snowbirds with the support they need as they build towards their 2023 show season.” – Major-General Iain Huddleston, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division and Operational Airworthiness Authority for the Royal Canadian Air Force

“While we are happy that we can safely resume flying, we are very disappointed that our season ended so early. Our focus now is to get back in the air, get our jets home, and start working on preparations for next year’s show season.” – Lieutenant-Colonel Denis Bandet, Commanding Officer 431 Air Demonstration Squadron

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

• On August 2, a CT-114 Tutor aircraft of 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron experienced an emergency during takeoff in Fort St. John, B.C. The pilot, who was sole occupant, was able to land the plane immediately, but the plane was damaged in the process. The pilot was medically assessed, and thankfully, was uninjured.

• An investigation into the accident by the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety commenced shortly after the accident, and is ongoing.

• The RCAF has an active fleet of 20 CT-114 Tutor aircraft, operated by 431 (AD) Squadron based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. The CT-114 Tutor is flown exclusively by Canadian Forces Snowbirds air demonstration team at public events throughout North America. The Snowbirds showcase the high level of skill, professionalism and teamwork, inherent in the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.