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Pilot uninjured, jet damaged in Snowbirds 'incident' during takeoff in B.C.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A Snowbirds pilot escaped physical injury today, landing a jet after an incident during takeoff in northern British Columbia.
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The Canadian Forces Snowbirds air demonstration team fly over English Bay as part of the Celebration of Light fireworks festival, in Vancouver, as an aircraft on approach to land at Vancouver International Airport is seen in the distance, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A Snowbirds pilot escaped physical injury today, landing a jet after an incident during takeoff in northern British Columbia. 

The Royal Canadian Air Force tweeted Tuesday evening to say it will be investigating what happened at the Fort St. John, B.C., airport, but is releasing few details. 

The plane was damaged and it's not clear how the Snowbirds performance schedule may be affected, though the team's set show in Penticton, B.C., Wednesday evening has not been cancelled. 

The squadron flies CT-114 Tutor planes, which were grounded in late June for a period of time as the Air Force dealt with a technical issue in a device that sets the timing for deploying a parachute during an ejection.

In May 2020, a jet collided with a bird shortly after takeoff, causing the engine to stall and leading to a crash that killed Capt. Jennifer Casey, a public affairs officer. 

The team was placed on an operational pause for the remainder of the summer following the crash, which came less than a year after another Snowbirds jet crashed in rural Georgia due to a fuel delivery system failure. 

A report into the May 2020 crash in Kamloops, B.C., found that the pilot and passenger's ejection sequences were "outside the ejection envelope" and the plane was at such a low altitude their parachutes didn't have time to work properly. Pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall suffered serious injuries, and Casey died at the scene. 

The pilot in the Georgia crash was able to eject and had only minor injuries, though they reported "anomalies" with the ejection sequence and parachute opening, according to a flight safety investigation. The plane was destroyed.

The investigation report said all life-support equipment was inspected as a result and recommended an inspection of the entire fleet's engines.

The Tutor jets are nearly 60 years old and are expected to be used by the Snowbirds until 2030, although there have been calls for their replacement over the last several years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2022.

The Canadian Press