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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2004 8:02 am
by xgary
MOOSE JAW, SASK. -- One pilot from the Canadian Forces' famed Snowbirds team was killed yesterday and a second suffered minor injuries in a mid-air collision between two jets during a routine training flight in Saskatchewan. The dead pilot, Capt. Miles Selby, 31, of Delta, B.C., was a two-year veteran of the Snowbirds and had flown CF-18 fighter jets during combat missions in Kosovo.

"We will regroup and spend some time thinking about our loss," said Col. Alain Boyer, commanding officer at 15 Wing, the aerobatic squadron's home base in Moose Jaw. "That's our focus right now."

Injured in the collision was Capt. Chuck Mallett, 35, of Edmonton.

The crash occurred in clear skies near Mossbank, about 65 kilometres south of Moose Jaw.

Jackie Geis was atop a haystack in her farmyard throwing down bales for her cattle about 10 a.m. when she heard a loud boom "like a shotgun going off in the distance -- just a lot louder."

Her dogs started to bark and she looked up.

"As soon as I looked up to the sky, I knew exactly what happened. There was the two puffs of smoke -- the big, black one to the left and not quite as big a one on the right."

you could see it was a plane. It was coming down," Geis said.

"I saw the pilot ejecting, coming down with his parachute open.

"They weren't real high. When he came out with the parachute I could see him sitting in (his seat).

"It was terrible."

She didn't see the other pilot eject.

The force of the impact spread debris from the two Tutor jets over about 10 square kilometres of open, rolling prairie near Mossbank. Much of it fell on a Second World War-era pilot training facility, with a sizable chunk of what used to be Mallett's plane landing right beside one of the old runways.

The twisted, charred wreckage was barely identifiable. Only scraps of bright red and white paint on the blackened metal hinted that the scattered bits and pieces were once a sleek aerobatic jet.

Crews in orange jumpsuits rummaged through the snow and brush for more wreckage. The scene was still being treated cautiously yesterday afternoon because all the explosives from the plane's ejection seat hadn't been identified.

Col. Steve Will said all proper procedures were followed when it became clear something had happened.

"Obviously the first concern is for the pilots who are airborne," Will said at a news conference. "We launch aircraft and have emergency procedures to get to the pilots as quickly as possible.

"Our concern at that point is to recover any other aircraft that are airborne and get all our people safely on the ground, and then get out to our people that are on the ground that have been involved in the accident as quickly as possible to render first aid."

All flying-training operations have been temporarily suspended at 15 Wing while investigators try to determine the cause of the crash.

"We're not 100 per cent sure of exactly the detail of how the accident happened at this time," said Boyer. "The team from Ottawa will arrive hopefully tonight or tomorrow morning, and we will be able to ascertain what happened in the next few days."

Boyer brushed off questions over the safety of the aging Tutor jets the Snowbirds use.

"We fly safe aircraft," he said.

The last Tutor came off the assembly line in 1966.

In Ottawa, Defence Minister Bill Graham offered condolences from the government.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of this horrible loss which is not only a loss to the Snowbird community, the air force and the Canadian Forces, but also to all Canadians who know and love the Snowbirds," he said.

"The Snowbirds act as Canadian ambassadors in demonstrating to the public the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the men and women of the Canadian Forces. Capt. Selby exemplified these qualities and will be sadly missed."

In Edmonton, Mallett's mother, Sandra-Lynn Janzen, said she talked to her son from hospital after the crash.

"We're all pretty shaky and we're suffering with the Selbys and for them," she said. "The Snowbirds are like a family. We all know about the risks and we all kind of worry together, but the Selbys today must be in agony and our thoughts are with them."

She said her son does not appear to have any broken bones, but she's concerned about what he's going through mentally and emotionally.

"We feel badly for him because we know he's hurting and he will be for a long time. He and Miles had to have been pretty good friends and this is an awful thing."

Yesterday's crash came six years to the day after the last fatal Snowbird crash in which Capt. Michael VandenBos, 29, died after two planes collided near Moose Jaw. The other pilot in that accident was able to safely return to base.

The Snowbirds are commanded by London native Maj. Ian McLean. He was appointed in October to lead the team.

It was the second crash this year involving pilots from 15 Wing. In May two pilots escaped from a Hawk training jet before it crashed in a private field about two kilometres northwest of the base.

It was the second crash this year involving pilots from 15 Wing. In May, two pilots escaped from a Hawk training jet before it crashed in a private field about two kilometres northwest of the base.

The Snowbirds are commanded by London native Maj. Ian McLean. He was appointed in October to lead the team.

Before he was appointed at commander, McLean flew with the Snowbirds during two seasons in 1998 and 1999.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 4:02 pm
by Ray
Thats very tragic...a sad day for all those that have seen the great Snowbirds perform their magic.

Looks like the Canadian Airforce must be down to about 18 jets now......soon there wont be enough to even be able to call them an airforce..... :lol: