RCAF grounds CT-114 Tutor fleet following Snowbirds accident

The Canadian Armed Forces announced on August 10 that the Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division has ordered an operational pause on the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CT-114 Tutor fleet following an aircraft accident.

The accident involved a CT-114 Tutor aircraft from the RCAF's 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron ‘Snowbirds’ and occurred on August 2 in Fort St John, British Colombia. As the Operational Airworthiness Authority for the RCAF, Maj Gen Iain Huddleston implemented the operational pause after consulting with Directorate of Flight Safety investigators and with experts from the Technical Airworthiness Authority within the Department of National Defence’s Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel).

RCAF CT-114 Tutors
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds display team, which is currently grounded pending investigation into an accident on August 2 RCAF

The RCAF will conduct a deliberate, detailed and broad risk analysis, with the aim of enabling the safe resumption of CT-114 flying operations. This operational pause means the fleet of aircraft will not fly until an operational airworthiness risk assessment can be completed. No prospective date for the lifting of the ground order was given. The RCAF’s airworthiness system will assess whether the accident and its causes pose any risk to continued flying operations and, if so, what mitigation measures can but put in place to lower those risks. The cause of the accident remains under investigation by the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety.

Maj Gen Iain Huddleston, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region/Joint Force Air Component/Search and Rescue Region Trenton and Operational Airworthiness Authority, said: “Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft cannot be flown unless they are determined to be airworthy and safe to fly. Given that the cause of this accident remains to be determined by the Airworthiness Investigative Authority, I have ordered an operational pause on the CT-114 Tutor fleet as we continue the investigation and commence a thorough operational airworthiness risk assessment process. We will return the fleet to flying operations when it is safe to do so, and in accordance with our rigorous airworthiness programme.”

During take-off shortly after 1200hrs (local time) on August 2 from Fort St John-North Peace Regional Airport, British Colombia, the aircraft experienced an emergency which caused loss of engine power but the pilot, who was the sole occupant, was able to land the aircraft immediately in a hay field, although this resulted in unspecified damage to the aircraft. Local fire crews extinguished a small post-crash fire. The pilot was not physically injured but was being medically assessed as a routine precaution. The Tutor was departing after the team had performed at an air show the previous weekend. An investigation into the accident by the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety is currently underway.

The RCAF has an active fleet of 20 CT-114 Tutor aircraft, all of which are operated by 431 (AD) Squadron based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Tutor had been a primary trainer for the RCAF until 2000, when the type was withdrawn from the role, with just the slightly modified Snowbirds aircraft being retained in service for air show display purposes.