Investigators focus on bird strike as possible cause of deadly crash

Crash killed popular public affairs officer and seriously injured the pilot

A bird (circled in red) is seen close to a Snowbird CT-114 that crashed on departure from Kamloops, British Columbia May 17, 2020 (photo: Royal Canadian Air Force).

The Royal Canadian Air Force said Monday it is investigating whether a bird strike led to the fatal crash of a Snowbird CT-114 in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The plane crashed May 17 shortly after leaving the airport, with hundreds of people looking on. Captain Jennifer Casey was killed and the pilot, Captain Richard MacDougall, was seriously injured.

“A detailed analysis of video footage recovered for the investigation revealed one bird in very close proximity to the aircraft right engine intake (see red circle in picture above) during the critical phase of take-off,” said a statement by the Directorate of Flight Safety.


“The investigation is focusing on environmental factors (birdstrike) as well as the performance of the escape system,” said the statement. Both occupants ejected from the plane before it crashed in a residential area.

Bird strikes are a particular concern for pilots, particularly during takeoff and landing. While a small bird flying alone pose little threat, in just the wrong combination, they can bring down an aircraft.

Perhaps the most infamous bird strike caused a US Airways Airbus A320 to ditch on the Hudson River after it struck a flock of geese after departing LaGuardia airport in New York. Everyone survived and the incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Airports take any number of measures to keep birds out of harm’s way, but it is almost impossible to eliminate the risk altogether. Statistics compiled by the Transportation Safety Board show almost a third of all bird strikes happen on departure, when the danger is highest.

“During takeoff there is very little time—perhaps two to three seconds—to react to a wildlife strike, evaluate aircraft or engine damage and decide to reject takeoff or continue to fly,” says an analysis of bird strikes published by Transport Canada in 2017.

Between June 1, 2018 and today, 1,897 bird strikes were reported in Canada, though that is almost surely an undercount. A dozen of those strikes were reported at Kamloops, generally with little or no damage to the aircraft.

A SkyLink Express Beech 1900C on a flight from Kelowna, BC to Kamloops, BC executed a missed approach on short final runway 27 due to a small flock of birds crossing the aircraft’s approach path.

Civil Aviation Daily Reporting System typical bird strike report

Surrounded by open fields, with a golf course to the north and a river to the south where birds can roost and feed, the Kamloops airport is at high risk for bird activity. The lack of an on-site control tower, such as at Kamloops, means pilots have to be especially vigilant, according to the TSB.

The Snowbirds were nearing the end of their cross-Canada mission dubbed Operation Inspiration, meant to boost spirits as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, when the crash occurred.

Categories: Safety

1 reply »