Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

June 20, 2009 14:55 ET

National Defence: Snowbirds Cleared to Fly

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - June 20, 2009) - After having their lap belts overhauled and inspected, the Snowbirds have been cleared to fly and are free to resume their air show schedule. The team, along with aircraft that share the same ejection seat system, had their flying operations temporarily ceased after an operational pause was placed on them.

The operational pause was implemented on June 12 as a safety precaution after a problem was identified in the Ballistic Disconnect Link Assembly, a portion of the lap belt system that is designed to automatically come apart during an ejection sequence. Although the nature of the problem has been identified, its cause factors are still under investigation by the Directorate of Flight Safety.

The operational pause affected the Hawk One F-86 Sabre, a CT-133 flown by the National Research Council, and all 25 CT-114 Tutors in the Air Force fleet, including the Golden Centennaire and the Snowbirds, the iconic aerobatic team that personifies excellence for the Canadian Forces. All of these aircraft share the same ejection seat system.

Based on the initial assessments, all lap belts in the system were overhauled and tested via non-destructive means (x-ray) to ensure serviceability. The lap belts for the Hawk One Sabre, the Golden Centennaire and the Snowbirds' aircraft have been overhauled, inspected and returned to service. The Hawk One Sabre, the Golden Centennaire and one Snowbirds Tutor were cleared to fly on Friday.

"The Snowbirds have been cleared to resume flying operations and carry on with their season," said Major-General Marcel Duval, Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region. "The operational pause that affected them was put in place as a safety precaution, and validates the processes we have in place in the Air Force to ensure the safety of our personnel."

The occurrence involved the Ballistic Disconnect Link Assembly and is unrelated to false-lock issues previously experienced on the CT-114 Tutor lap belt. The ongoing flight safety investigation is focusing on maintenance procedures and training.

Safety is paramount for the Canadian Forces (CF). The CF do not operate unsafe aircraft. Air Force technicians meticulously maintain CF aircraft, performing a deliberate and detailed maintenance routine before and after every flight.

Flight safety investigations are always very thorough, and the CF takes all flight safety incidents very seriously. The CF Flight Safety system is one of the most effective and respected in the world.

Contact Information

  • 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region
    Lieutenant (Navy) David Lavallee
    Public Affairs Officer
    204-833-2500 ext. 2029
    Cell: 204-471-5222
    david.lavallee2@forces.gc.ca