Investigation confirms bird flew into Snowbirds plane engine in crash that killed Capt. Jenn Casey
HALIFAX -- The Canadian Armed Forces has finished its investigation into the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds crash that killed Halifax-born Capt. Jenn Casey, and injured Capt. Richard MacDougall last May in Kamloops, B.C.
The investigation revealed a small bird flew into the plane’s engine shortly after take-off from the Kamloops airport on May 17, 2020, causing the plane to lose power.
The pilot then gave an order to abandon the aircraft – at too low of a height to safely do so. According to the investigation’s findings, neither the pilot nor passenger had time to safely deploy their parachutes.
"Snowbird 11's power loss could not have come at a worse time," said Col. John Alexander, director of flight safety for the Royal Canadian Air Force. "Low altitude, low airspeed, proximity to another aircraft, and in the vicinity of a built-up area."
"This tragic accident reinforces the importance of continuous, situation-specific training to minimize reaction time in an emergency and the importance of a timely decision to eject," he added.
The investigation was completed by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Directorate of Flight Safety, along with the Airworthiness Investigative Authority.
The report made five recommendations focused on prevention and safety: additional training for aircrew to better prepare "for an engine failure after take-off in a low-level environment, clarify the command to ‘eject’, publish a directive to clarify how aircrew should prioritize an ejection-scenario near or over a populated area, and research potential options to stabilize the ejection seat from any tendency to pitch, roll, or yaw."
While the Royal Canadian Air Force accepts the recommendation of better training, it acknowledges the extreme challenges pilots face in high-stress situations.
"We recognize the inherent risk with military flying, despite the tireless work of our team of professionals to safely operate and maintain our aircraft," said Brig.-Gen. Denis O’Reilly, Commander 2 Canadian Air Division with the Air Force.
“In emergency situations, pilots must make split-second decisions after quickly processing a lot of information, while at the same time dealing with high levels of stress, g-forces, and other challenging environmental factors in the cockpit,” he added.
Capt. Jenn Casey, the public affairs officer who was killed during the Kamloops crash, had been flying with the Snowbirds as part of Operation Inspiration, a cross-country tour aimed at boosting Canadians’ spirits during COVID-19.
In an interview with CTV News after her death, her family said she was "supporting an important mission that seemed to be designed for her."
Thousands lined the streets of Casey’s hometown of Halifax on May 24, as a procession throughout the city honoured the young officer as she returned home for the last time.
According to the Canadian Armed Forces, Capt. Casey’s family has been briefed on the investigation’s findings, and does not wish to be interviewed at this time.