A terrible tragedy occurred on Sunday, when a Tutor jet crashed into a residential neighbourhood in Kamloops, B.C., killing one person and seriously injuring the pilot.
This jet was a member of the famous Snowbirds, based out of 15 Wing at CFB Moose Jaw, as they were on a national tour, “Operation Inspiration”, which had begun in the Maritimes.
The crash and death is tragic in and of itself, but the tragedy is compounded when you realize they were doing this as a tribute to all of the front-line essential workers across Canada, to inspire them to keep on in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thus it was very touching to see that on Monday, pilots in B.C. took to the air and completed the tour on the Snowbirds behalf, and in tribute to the downed pilot and Capt. Jenn Casey, who died in the crash.
I think the Snowbirds are special to most Canadians for the pride in their precision flying and how they represent the Air Force branch of the Canadian Armed Forces.
As an Air Force brat, this holds a special place in my heart too, particularly as I grew up on air bases with my Dad being in the Air Force. His last two years of service was at CFB Moose Jaw, when I was in Grade 8 and 9.
It was a relatively short stay, but as this was a prime formative time in my life, many of my experiences there made a big impact on me.
My Dad was a corporal in the Air Simulation Training section, where they had an air simulator of the Tutor jet for training purposes.
One of the impacts was getting to see the Snowbirds practice on an almost daily basis, other than when they were on a tour or visiting air shows.
The air base itself hosted an annual air show, which was really cool to go see, and the Snowbirds were of course a central feature of that.
It’s a tribute to the longevity of these planes that they’re still flying the same jets as when I lived at the base, but with this fatal crash, there are calls for possibly grounding the flying team, because the planes have reached the end of their useful lives.
I really hope that in their 50th year of flying, this isn’t going to be how they end, because in spite of the tragedy, they were inspiring to all of us.