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 ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.