EDITORIAL – Talk of permanently grounding the Snowbirds should be dismissed


(Image: Facebook, Snowbirds)

IT WAS INEVITABLE questions would be raised about the safety of the CT-114 Tutor jets flown by the Snowbirds.

But any suggestion the Snowbirds be disbanded should be immediately dismissed.

There have been eight fatal crashes involving Snowbirds, including the tragedy two Sundays ago that took the life of Capt. Jenn Casey and seriously injured Capt. Richard MacDougall.

There have also been several non-fatal crashes, some caused by collisions or bird strikes. Until the crash here, there had been no fatalities since 2008. According to Snowbirds commanding officer Lt.-Col. Mike French, the Tutors are completely rebuilt about every two years to become “mint condition” aircraft. The day-to-day maintenance and inspections are rigorous.

There’s plenty of speculation, of course, but no current evidence we know of that the latest crash had anything to do with any inherent flaws in the aircraft.

For now, the familiar red and white Tutors are grounded. Maybe it will become evident that they should be replaced, which was scheduled to be done by 2030 anyway.

If new planes are needed, the Snowbirds should get them. But talk of disbanding the Snowbirds team is concerning.

No one who’s watched them perform can ever forget the adrenaline rush and incomparable feeling of pride and even patriotism when those big engines roar past in unison. They inspire us and bring us joy, which is exactly what they were doing with Operation Inspiration.

As Canadians, we identify with them and admire the skills of the pilots. We in Kamloops love the 409 Squadron and their impressive Hawk aircraft as well but the Snowbirds are a true Canadian icon.

The cost of keeping the team in the air is about $10 million a year. The cost of replacements for the Tutors is estimated at up to $1.5 billion. It’s worth it for what the Snowbirds give us.

As Lt.-Col. French says, grounding them permanently would be “tragic.”

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9116 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Talk of permanently grounding the Snowbirds should be dismissed

  1. Tony Brumell // May 25, 2020 at 11:42 AM // Reply

    I agree withyou Mel. The Snowbirds have been great Canadian Ambassadors for fifty years. Before them the Golden Hawks fulfilled the same role. It was always looked forward for the Hawks or ,later the Snow Birds to perform for the waiting enthusiastic public at air shows across Canada and around the world.
    The loss of Captain Casey is trajic and brings the inherent danger and risk of Flying “on the edge ” home to us all.Renaming the air port road seems small by comparison but it is just about all we can do to recognize her contribution.
    I do think she would agree to some restrictions on flying. I believe they should be should be enacted to protect the pilots,observers and ground crews.The first change I would consider would be to restrict planes that take off over inhabited residential areas from doing so. These jets can handle most weather related circumstances like wind sheer or cross winds etc and should be able to fly through them. In Kamloops this means take offs of all capable aircraft should be from East to west. ( Out over the lake ) I think that crew survivability would be increased and threat to home residents decreased..
    I also believe that survivability for crew (both ) would be better if these planes were restricted to only one flying crew ie pilot only.. The danger is increased exponentially if the crew must eject simultainiously . These seats are, after all propelled by rocket motors going off mere inches from each other.The risks are obvious .

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