The Snowbirds jets that have been grounded at Kamloops Airport for more than three months could soon be on the move to their home base in Moose Jaw.
Airport manager Ed Ratuski said the planes have been getting ready to depart and Brocklehurst residents have likely noticed more activity around them as they get ready to leave. “From what we understand, it will be sometime next week, but it’s been changing day-to-day,” Ratuski said.
On May 17, a CT-114 Tutor Snowbirds jet leaving Kamloops Airport en route to its next stop on the cross-Canada Operation Inspiration tour crashed into a Brocklehurst neighbourhood, killing military public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey and injuring the pilot of the aircraft, Capt. Richard MacDougall. The entire fleet was then grounded pending a probe into the crash.
In June, the Royal Canadian Airforce released a preliminary report, confirming it is exploring a bird strike as the possible cause of the crash. Footage of the accident showed a bird in very close proximity to the plane’s right engine as it was taking off.
“The investigation is focusing on environmental factors (birdstrike) as well as the performance of the escape system,” the report stated. Snowbirds public affairs officer Lt. Becky Major said technicians are doing maintenance work on the jets, but noted there are no dates for departure yet. She said the planes will not depart without first letting the City of Kamloops know, adding the fleet is still waiting for its operational pause to be lifted once the investigation into May’s crash is completed. “There’s still things that need to be signed off [on],” she said.
Major said crews have been doing preventive maintenance work on the aircraft since they were grounded and just last week were running the engines, though the planes have not yet been flown. A pause could be lifted ahead of an investigation wrapping up if enough information has already been gathered, which was the case with an air force fleet during an investigation into the April 29 crash of a Cyclone helicopter in the Ionian sea, Major said. “But we’re still just going to wait and see,” she said.