Canadian Snowbird Jet fatal crash in Montana


Crash kills air show pilot

A veteran Canadian Air Force Snowbirds pilot rehearsing the skies above Malmstrom Air Force Base was killed Friday when his jet split from its formation and plummeted to the ground.

Capt. Shawn McCaughey, 31, of Candiac, Quebec, the deputy team leader, was killed instantly when his jet smashed into a field near the MAFB runway. He is the sixth Snowbird pilot killed since 1972.

The weekend aerial maneuvers are on hold pending results of an investigation, said Malmstrom’s wing commander, Col. Sandy Finan.

The sudden crash about 3:45 p.m. stunned onlookers watching the elite Canadian fliers practice low-level, high-speed maneuvers for the Malmstrom Open House and Sports Auto-Rama today and Sunday.
“We were just in shock,” said Janine Palmer, a C.M. Russell High student who witnessed the crash with her friend, Lena Lace. “We just looked at each other and screamed.”

No one ejected from the single-engine jet, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

“It’s difficult to speculate and puzzling to us,” Team Leader Maj. Robert Mitchell of Victoria, B.C., said in a news conference at Malmstrom on Friday night.

He said they were in an inverted pass formation, which McCaughey might have been rolling out of because he was unhappy with it.

“He was a tremendous pilot, professional officer and dear friend,” said Mitchell. “Our team is devastated, and we miss him already.”

The Canadian Forces Flight Safety Team is expected to arrive at Malmstrom today to begin its own investigation.

McCaughey, with more than 1,400 hours of military flight time, is the first Snowbirds pilot to have no previous experience on the CT-114 Tutor aircraft. But that should not have mattered because the aircraft is “fairly uncomplicated,” said Lt. Petra Smith, a spokeswoman for the Snowbirds.

Gregg Dart, head football coach at Great Falls High School, was watching the maneuvers as he and his son, Chase, 11, sat in their car parked on Highway 87/89 just outside the air base.

As the group of Snowbirds flew toward them, the Darts watched as one of the middle aircraft fell back, then shot straight down.

“It was less than a second before it hit the ground,” Dart said. “There was a thud, then the shock wave of it hitting. After that, there was a big black cloud and the smell of jet fuel.”

Dart looked for a pilot floating from a parachute, but didn’t see one. “They were so low that I can’t imagine anyone getting out.”

Lt. Jeff Noel, a spokesman for the 15 Wing Moose Jaw, said all the pilots participating in the MAFB show were veteran pilots.

Matt Behr, a C.M. Russell High School junior who was shooting the rehearsal with his camera at 57th Street and 6th Avenue South, photographed the Snowbirds and their formations just seconds before the plane went down. He had been shooting the aerobatic maneuvers for about 10 minutes before the crash.

“A couple of seconds later, there was a puff of smoke and then a boom,” Behr said. “I didn’t think it was real at first. I thought, maybe it’s pyrotechnics. I didn’t want to believe it at first.”

Several residents at the air base said dozens of emergency vehicles were gathered near the south end of the base runway, which has been closed for the past decade.

Not far from the Bar-S Lounge on Highway 87/89, Gillian Scarber of Geyser parked off the road with dozens of other cars to watch the Snowbirds practice their drills.

It just smacked into the ground," Scarber said. "There was a big ball of flames and then the smoke just drifted onto the highway.

Since the main runway at Malmstrom has been closed, the Snowbirds have been taking off and landing at the Great Falls International Airport on Gore Hill, said Montana Air National Guard Public Information Officer Capt. Jeff Pepke.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the team, and our resources are at their disposal,” said Finan.


Captain Shawn McCaughey - SB2 (Inner Right Wing)
January 31, 2007

Captain Shawn McCaughey, 30, from Candiac, Quebec, is in his second year with the Snowbirds and flies the No. 2 jet in the Inner Right Wing position.

Captain McCaughey joined the Canadian Forces in 2000 as a Direct Entry Officer (DEO). Prior to joining the Canadian Forces, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Geography from Concordia University in Montreal. He also held a civilian commercial pilot’s license. After receiving his wings on the CT-155 Hawk in 2003, he was posted to 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2CFFTS) in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, as a flying instructor on the CT-156 Harvard II, the NATO Flying Training in Canada Program’s (NFTC) new training aircraft. During his tour, Captain McCaughey obtained over 500 instructional hours and earned an A2 instructional category.

Being a graduate of the NFTC Program, Captain McCaughey is the first Snowbird pilot to have no previous experience on the CT-114 Tutor. Captain McCaughey brings over 1,400 hours of military flying time to the 2007 team.

[ ]Snowbirds]( Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird Website


[]Team in formation ]('Pnanqnve%20PY-41%20Ghgbe')%20%20beqre%20ol%20cubgb_vq%20QRFP&photo_nr=158&prev_id=0587731&next_id=0537259)[]in Fort Lauderdale ]('Pnanqnve%20PY-41%20Ghgbe')%20%20beqre%20ol%20cubgb_vq%20QRFP&photo_nr=211&prev_id=&next_id=0366058)
[]CL-41 Tutor ]('Pnanqnve%20PY-41%20Ghgbe')%20%20beqre%20ol%20cubgb_vq%20QRFP&photo_nr=8&prev_id=1191022&next_id=1179990) aircraft number 2.[ ]Formation landing in Vegas]('Pnanqnve%20PY-41%20Ghgbe')%20%20beqre%20ol%20cubgb_vq%20QRFP&photo_nr=245&prev_id=0226916&next_id=0225613)
[ ] Nice inverted shot]('Pnanqnve%20PY-41%20Ghgbe')%20%20beqre%20ol%20cubgb_vq%20QRFP&photo_nr=269&prev_id=0084678&next_id=0084133)


Snowbird Jet Crash Probe Gears Up
May 20, 2007

Associated Press Writer

GREAT FALLS, Mont. | Investigators are seeking pictures and video of the fatal crash of a Snowbirds jet to try to determine if the Canadian military stunt plane collided with a bird, the chief investigator said Sunday.

The Canadair CT-114 Tutor was in a practice formation with three other planes and flying upside down at an altitude of 300 feet Friday when it broke from the formation and hit the ground “at a steep angle at high speed,” said Maj. Ken Smith of Canadian Forces Flight Safety.

The known debris is in an area smaller than 1 square mile, he said.

Killed was pilot Capt. Shawn McCaughey, 31, of Candiac, Quebec. The team had been rehearsing for weekend performances at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Other Snowbirds pilots indicated “everything appeared normal up until the final seconds when the aircraft departed and hit the ground,” Smith said.

The Tutor is not equipped with a “black box,” which records information that may be useful in crash investigations. The plane did have some rudimentary monitoring equipment, which has not been recovered, Smith said.

The investigation could take a year. About a dozen Canadian investigators plan to be in Montana about two weeks.

The Malmstrom air show Saturday and Sunday took place without the Snowbirds, whose performances for the remainder of the season were put on hold.


[ CBC News ]](


Wow, that’s crazy about the seatbelt.

Completely unrelated… I checked my seatbelt on final yesterday and it wasn’t latched. Being the professional that I am, I continued flying and latched it all at the same time. Pretty amazing, I know!