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The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be flying in scheduled airshows until a technical issue discovered during routine maintenance is resolved.
The issue — which was discovered by aviation technicians at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on June 19 — relates to “a device that sets the timing for the deployment of the parachute during the ejection sequence,” a Department of Defence (DND) news release reads.
Technicians discovered that the Mk10B device and associated testing tool used by the Snowbirds aircrew may not be calibrated accurately. While the team takes flight safety very seriously, they will not fly until the parachutes are re-tested and re-packed “to ensure proper timing is set for their activation in the event of an emergency.”
The 431 Air Demonstration Squadron maintenance crew is working with a third-party aviation contractor, Miltex Solutions Canada based in Trenton, to get the team back in the air as soon as possible. However, current Snowbirds public affairs officer Gabriel Ferris confirmed that the team will not fly in the Dieppe, Moncton, and Riverview areas in New Brunswick on June 29. The team’s June 22 performance in North Bay, Ontario, was also canceled due to the parachute issue. The Snowbirds are hoping to be back in the air for their Canada Day performance in Ottawa on July 1, but Ferris said there is still uncertainty surrounding that as of right now.
Airshow season has only just begun for the Snowbirds, and the team has so far performed at Borden Canadian Armed Forces Day & Air Show in Borden, Ontario, on June 18. The Snowbirds wrapped up their training season in early June, performing a private acceptance show on June 9 at 15 Wing Moose Jaw in front of family, fellow military personnel, and the media, who gave their stamp of approval on the team’s demonstration.
Though the news of the canceled performances is “disappointing,” MGen Eric Kenny, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division, RCAF, said: “I applaud our aviation technicians for discovering this issue. This speaks to our flight safety culture in the RCAF, and the professionalism of our maintainers. We have full confidence that this issue will be resolved in a safe manner.”
The technical issue affects a component of aviation life support equipment, rather than the Snowbirds’ CT-114 Tutor aircraft themselves, so an operational pause has not been invoked for the Tutor fleet, the DND confirmed.
The Defence Department also confirmed that there is no link between the current parachute issue and the CT-114 Tutor accident that occurred on May 17, 2020, in Kamloops, injuring Snowbirds pilot Capt Richard MacDougall and killing public affairs officer Capt Jenn Casey.