Friday, August 26, 2005

Canadian Pride

Guest Post: Stalkingcat (a right-leaning Canadian)

The Snowbirds are the Canadian Forces air aerobatic team. On Wednesday,one of the aircraft crashed during the warm up for an air show (News Release from the Snowbirds):

Snowbird Pilot Safely Ejects From Jet
CAS NR - August 24, 2005
THUNDER BAY , ON . - A Canadian Forces Snowbird pilot safely ejected from his CT-114 Tutor jet Wednesday, August 24 at about 5:25 p.m. in Thunder Bay , Ont., during the warm-up phase before the Thunder in the Air Airshow.
Captain Andy Mackay, Snowbird 8, sustained some injuries during the ejection. He is receiving medical care at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Services Centre. Next of kin have been notified.
“Our main focus at the moment is Captain Andy Mackay's well being,” said Major Ian McLean, commanding officer, Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
Thunder Bay Emergency Medical Services responded immediately and Captain Andy Mackay was recovered within 15 minutes of ejecting from his jet. The site has been secured for a flight safety investigation. Captain Mackay was treated in hospital for undisclosed injuries and released. (source)

Now the predictable media hand wringing has begun. "Today's Question" on was:
"After Wednesday's crash, what's your opinion of the Snowbirds
-It's still an essential part of the Canadian cultural fabric
-It's too risky and should be put to rest"

There is the typical "program remains hanging in the balance" article.

Every time a mishap happens with anything to do with the Canadian Forces, we must go through the "program remains hanging in the balance" routine with the Canadian media. John Cudahy, the head of the International Council of Air Shows, says what most Canadians think of the Snowbirds, "Cudahy said questions about the team's future seem to be coming from the media, not the public".

I have seen the Snowbirds fly many times, including five times in the last two years. The skill of these pilots are incredible!. The Canadian Snowbirds are the only team in North America (perhaps the world, but I was unable to establish that fact) to fly a NINE, count 'em, NINE planes in aerobatic formation! I will admit about half the program consists of two solo planes, so there is a mere seven aircraft flying within several feet of one another for about 50% of the performance.

I had the incredible opportunity to see both the Snowbirds and the US Air Force Thunderbirds perform twice, two days in a row, at Cold Lake, Alberta. The Thunderbirds were AWESOME with their F-16's but they performed about 95% of the show with only FOUR aircraft in formation and two solos. Also, the 45 minute "RAW! RAW! USA!" introduction blaring static noise from cheap speakers before the aircraft even started did not warm the Canadian, mostly military, crowd.

The elegant conclusion of nine Tutor CT-114 planes soaring through true blue Alberta skies brought many hard Canadian Military personal and contractors their feet, roaring in appreciation. I even saw a CF-188 pilot with tears in his eyes.

I have not seen the US Navy Blue Angels fly - yet.

The CT-114 Tutors are old. That is a fact. The last one rolled off the assembly line in 1966. They also get a lot of mechanical attention, though. According to the Snowbirds website, each aircraft is stripped and inspected every 400 hours of flight time.

The aircraft are safe. There have been five fatal Snowbird accidents since 1972. I cannot find confirmation on this, but the CTV news video indicated a majority of them were due to pilot error. This is a tragic, but affirming, sign that the CT-114 Tutor jet itself is not to blame.

There is an aircraft that is being looked at to replace the CT-114 Tutor. It is the BAe CT-155 HAWK. This is the current advanced trainer for the Royal Canadian Air Force. I am very familiar with this aircraft and have actually flown it in a CAE Simulator, I have seen it up close in the hanger and I have seen many of them fly. It is basically a subsonic F-16. There are doubts if the CT-155 is capable of a nine aircraft formation as the CT-114 is because of the increased size and capability of the aircraft.

The media should back off the Snowbirds. They have been flying for 35 years and have brought swelling Canadian pride into the hearts of millions of Canadians. The way the Canadian Liberal Government has trashed this war decorated country in the last 40 years, it is pride that Canadians need more than anything else! If we have any left.

Stalkingcat's site

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