Retired general Tom Lawson understands why people would be questioning the safety of the Snowbirds’ jets given their age and because Sunday’s crash in Kamloops, B.C., was the second for the aerobatics team since October. CP photo

Retired defence chief defends Snowbirds’ ‘fantastic’ Tutor jets

Retired general understands why people would be questioning the safety of the Snowbirds’ jets

OTTAWA — While military investigators search for answers into Sunday’s deadly Snowbird crash, one former chief of defence staff says the aerobatic team’s 57-year-old Tutor jet is a “fantastic” aircraft.

Retired general Tom Lawson understands why people would be questioning the safety of the Snowbirds’ jets given their age and because Sunday’s crash in Kamloops, B.C., was the second for the aerobatics team since October.

But the former fighter pilot, who served as Canada’s top military officer from 2012 to 2015, says the planes are in good condition and have been well maintained over the decades by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Sunday’s crash occurred shortly after two Snowbirds took off from the Kamloops Airport during Operation Inspiration, a cross-country tour aimed at boosting the morale of Canadians struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

While an investigation is underway, Lawson says video of the incident suggests the Tutor jet’s engine lost power — possibly after striking a bird — before it plunged to the ground.

Canadian Armed Forces public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey was killed in the crash while Capt. Richard MacDougall, the pilot of the aircraft, sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

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