Yesterday, while everyone played unawares in the park, outside to enjoy themselves in the warm spring sunshine, as we did, sitting on our balcony for about an hour. A tragedy befell the Canadian Snowbirds Aerobatic Display Team, in Kamloops, B.C. One of their aircraft, which were taking off in pairs and heading out to do a display not far away, crashed, killing one and seriously injuring the pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall.
The pilot managed to eject to relative safety in that he landed atop a roof, and was later rescued by emergency services. While it is still unclear what happened to the passenger, Captain Jennifer Casey, the display team’s PR liaison officer, who it seems was onboard for the trip—maybe taking aerial photos?
In the footage I’ve seen, and as an ex-air traffic controller (back in my military days) I combed through a lot available on social media looking for clues—there is one video that shows the troubled aircraft trying to gain height as it pulls to the left (it was the left craft of the pair and, in an emergency this would have been procedure) doing what to those on the ground thought was a barrel loop. But at the peak of its arc, for a split second the plane stalls and hangs midair.
I’m judging there was something wrong with the engines as the pilot took off—whether mechanical, or birdstrike, which is a lot more common that you would think—and the engines flamed out. I’m guessing, while calling a Mayday call, the pilot was furiously trying to reengage the engines, without success.
In those split seconds he has a decision to make, bail or go down with the craft. They are trained, and trained some more to react, and get out.
In the videos, there are two puffs of smoke, one for the canopy release another for a chair being ejected, just moments before the plane plummets straight down, crashing into a couple of houses below, where, thankfully for all involved, no one was killed.
There is no indication of a second chair ejection, yet, in other footage taken on the ground at the crash site and near the main crash site. A second parachute is seen on the ground near some wreckage.
This leads me to believe Captain Casey was ejected but with complications, and that maybe she died on impact. Because while the chairs these flyers are strapped into are a serious piece of engineering, severe injuries and yes, death, happen. Especially as this particular aircraft never really gained height before ejection occured.
These are just my speculations and my way of working through what I saw, and what happened, and are conjecture on my part, and should not be taken as being anything other than a ground observer’s opinion. I am sure the NTSB will piece together what happened, and the public will get to know eventually.
My deepest sympathies go to Captain Casey’s family, friends, and all her colleagues, and to all those who were witness to these events, on the ground. My heart goes out to you.
Please, everyone, stay safe wherever you are and take care. Life is short.