JOPLIN REGIONAL AIRPORT — Wednesday afternoon Joplin was a refuel stop for the Royal Canadian Air Force 431 Demonstration Squadron, aka, the Snowbirds.
October 13 they were at the Atlanta Motor Speedway preparing for an airshow and one of the 56-year-old Tudor jets crashed in a farmers field. The pilot ejected safely.
After the crash they were grounded in the United States and prohibited from flying home to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for more than a month.
“When flying air demonstrations, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds operate in tight formation, conducting loops and rolls in our signature formation,” Snowbirds commander Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French said in a statement.
“At this point, we have received enough information from investigators to resume wings-level flight in order to return our jets to our home base. However, we need to let the investigators continue to work before we resume full operations.”
United States investigators are still looking into the cause of the crash. And a Canadian investigation continues as the plans arrive back to Canada. RAF officials say the team is grounded until that investigation is complete.
According to their website since the team began flying the CT-114 Tudor jets in 1971. There have 8 pilot deaths in crashes.
- 10 June 1972: Solo Captain Lloyd Waterer died after a wingtip collision with the other solo aircraft while performing an opposing solo manoeuvre at the Trenton Air Show at CFB Trenton, Ontario.
- 3 May 1978: Captain Gordon de Jong died at an air show in Grande Prairie, Alberta. The horizontal stabilizer failed, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. Although pilot ejection was initiated, it was not successful.
- 3 September 1989: Captain Shane Antaya died after a midair collision during a demonstration at the Canadian International Air Show during the CNE in Toronto, Ontariowhen his Tutor crashed into Lake Ontario. During the same accident, team commander Major Dan Dempsey safely ejected from his aircraft.
- 10 December 1998: Captain Michael VandenBos died in a midair collision during training near Moose Jaw.
- 21 June 2001: Major Robert Painchaud and his passenger ejected after a midair collision between aircraft No. 1 and No. 5 as they attempted to rejoin the “Concord” nine-jet formation for a media shoot over Lake Erienear London, Ontario. The passenger sustained serious injury, but Major Painchaud suffered only bruising and the other aircraft was safely flown back to base.
- 10 December 2004: Captain Miles Selby died in a midair collision during training near Mossbank, Saskatchewan while practising the co-loop manoeuvre. The other pilot, Captain Chuck Mallett, was thrown from his destroyed aircraft while still strapped into his seat. While tumbling towards the ground, he was able to unstrap, deploy his parachute and land with only minor injuries.
- 18 May 2007: Snowbird 2, Captain Shawn McCaughey fatally crashed during practice at Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls, Montana due to a restraining strap malfunction.
- 9 October 2008: A Snowbird Tutor piloted by newly recruited team member Captain Bryan Mitchell with military photographer Sergeant Charles Senecal crashed, killing both, near the Snowbirds’ home base of 15 Wing Moose Jaw while on a non-exhibition flight.
The Snowbirds are a tradition that began during World War II created to showcase the “skill, professionalism and teamwork of the Canadian Forces Personnel,” states author Daniel Dempsey.