Hearts of Canadians were deeply saddened this past Sunday at the news of the crash of one of the Snowbird aircraft in Kamloops, BC, resulting in the death of Capt. Jenn Casey, and serious injuries to the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall.
The Snowbirds began an Operation Inspiration tour on the east coast about two weeks ago to cross Canada, saluting front-line health-care workers, first responders, and essential workers, and to boost the morale of Canadians struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Forces (CF) Snowbirds, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron members, are a familiar sight at Niagara District Airport, having performed an airshow here in September 2019.
While the public watches the team’s signature nine-jet formation perform amazing displays of flying skill, on the ground is a large crew of personnel who make every flight possible.
In addition to pilots, there are technicians, mobile support operators, resource managers, engineers, logistics officer, and a public affairs officer; the latter role filled by Capt. Casey.
According to the Royal Canadian Air Force website, Casey is from Halifax, NS, and joined Canada’s Armed Forces in 2014 after several years working as a journalist.
As public affairs officer for the Snowbird team, Capt. Casey provided communications advice to the team’s commander, and in turn informed the public of the roles, activities and work of the Snowbird team. While an airshow takes less than an hour to perform, the various members of the team work a long day to prepare, and then to review, every detail of the flight, with focus on safety.
While the iconic CT-114 Tutor jets were built in the 1960s as a training aircraft, they are constantly upgraded. The aircraft flown by the Snowbirds are slightly modified from the original training version to enhance performance during low-level aerobatic flying.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “deeply saddened,” and that his thoughts are with the families of Capt. Casey and Capt. MacDougall, and the entire Snowbirds team. He thanked emergency crews in Kamloops for responding quickly.
Randy Klaassen frequently writes articles of community interest for The Local, and is a volunteer with Civil Air Search And Rescue Association, Niagara, based at Niagara District Airport.