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Canadian Forces Snowbirds Collide

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Canadian Forces Snowbirds Collide

Old 22nd Jun 2001, 18:30
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Post Canadian Forces Snowbirds Collide

One of the world's best teams hit by accident:

Globe and Mail Update

A Snowbird pilot and his passenger survived a collision and crash into Lake Erie during a media event the precision flying team was holding near London, Ont. Thursday.

Two aircraft from the nine-member team collided and the second aircraft landed safely at the London airport after the 4 p.m. EDT incident.

The No. 1 plane, which went into the lake, was flown by the team's commanding officer, Major Bob Painchaud, 38, of Lac Saguay, Que., who was released from hospital Thursday night. The No. 5 plane, which brings up the rear in the diamond formation, was flow by Captain Warren Wright, 32, of Delta, B.C.

The passenger, Sergeant David Wilson, is an employee of the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in London, and is in good condition, said Captain Michael Mietzner from Winnipeg.

The Snowbirds deputy commander, Major Ian Searle, said the men had been plucked from the water by rescue helicopter and were now in hospital in nearby St. Thomas, Ont.

The Snowbirds performed in Leamington, Ont. Wednesday and were scheduled to fly in an air show at the London International Airport for three days starting Friday.

Maj. Searle, who was flying one of the other planes, said he saw one life raft in the water from the sky after the crash. He said the squad was flying in a formation "a few thousand feet off the ground" when the incident happened but couldn't provide further details since he was not looking at his instruments.

He said flight safety investigators would begin probing the incident.

"We're in a risky business. As military pilots, we accept that risk," Maj. Searle said.

Canada's best-known precision flying team have experienced five fatal accidents in the past. Most recently, Captain Michael VandenBos was killed during a training flight on Dec. 10, 1998, near Moose Jaw, Sask.

Doug Wall, 36, stopped to watch when he heard the Snowbirds go overhead on his farm near Houghton Centre, east of Port Burwell.

"The seven in formation, I saw them first, and they turned south to go over the lake, to head back west again," he said. "When they had left, I saw two behind doing the exact same maneouvre.

"They turned south over the lake ... and just as they were starting to turn west, there was a bright flash of light and then instantaneously a huge fireball and lots of smoke... My first thought was, 'There he goes, that's the end of him.' But all of a sudden I could see the parachute and he's floating away."

Dave Carswell, assignment editor for CKCO-TV in Kitchener and a private pilot, saw the drama unfold from the passenger seat of Snowbird No. 9.

"Two of the aircraft, No. 1 and No. 5, had left the formation to go do some additional photo work," he said. "Now they were off to our left, about a mile to our left. We were in a very gentle, right-hand, climbing turn when I suddenly heard on the radio '4-1, 4-1, 4-1' — No. 4, who was leading the formation at the time, calling No. 1, one of the aircraft that had departed and gone off to our left . . .

"And then I heard No. 5 on a very scratchy radio saying that there was a parachute in the water."

Barry McGonigle, president of the London air show, said that although a final decision hadn't been made, he felt the weekend event should go ahead.

"I think that we should go forward. I think that the Snowbirds came here to perform just like other people are coming in from around the world, and unfortunately we all know and understand the risks of aviation and air shows," Mr. McGonigle said.

But Capt. Mietzner said it is highly unlikely the team will perform this weekend.

"As far as the rest of the season goes, that remains to be seen." He said that there are no alternate flyers for the nine-plane team. "If they [all nine pilots] can't [fly], that's it."

The passenger, Sgt. Wilson, was participating in a media flight day in London, Ont. Capt. Mietzner said he was probably one of some local military members invited.

Capt. Mietzner said that the military investigation team, the directorate of flight safety, will investigate the incident. The downed Snowbird is still in Lake Erie and it's not clear whether or not they would raise it from the water.

The military base in Moose Jaw, Sask. where the Snowbirds are based, has two aircraft in holding, but there are few other operational CT-114 Tutors in Canada.

The Tutors, which used to be used by the military for training, were retired in August 2000.

London Ontario Provincial Police received an emergency call from a number of witnesses who saw the plane go down, said Sgt. Dave Rektor.

The OPP says it has no evidence so far that an ejection took place. That means the pilot was likely with the plane as it went down, Sgt. Rektor said.

One witness told CTV Newsnet that the planes were not doing difficult manoeuvres. He said the nine-plane team had performed a few gradual turns, and a couple flips but nothing out of the ordinary.

Steve Baker, president of the London International Airport, said the Snowbirds had arrived in London for the weekend's London Airshow and Balloon Festival, and were out on a demonstration flight.

"Certainly, the Snowbirds have been [coming] here for 26 years ... and are certainly a big part of aviation in Canada," Mr. Baker said Thursday.

The London Airshow and Balloon Festival includes nine Snowbirds and other Canadian Forces aircraft as well as aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air National Guard.

Old 22nd Jun 2001, 18:40
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You clearly havent read this


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