The Canadian military was made aware of ejection seat system problems in the aircraft used by the Snowbirds aerial team in 2016.
Capt. Jenn Casey was killed in a crash in Kamloops, BC on May 17, and Capt. Richard MacDougall, who was piloting the aircraft, was seriously injured. The aerobatics team was on a nationwide tour to lift the morale of Canadians amidst the coronavirus pandemic shut down.
Witnesses to the fatal crash say Casey’s parachute did not deploy.
In a preliminary report, crash investigators said video footage showed a bird very close to the right-side air intake of the aircraft's engine during takeoff. It's possible the bird struck the air intake and caused engine failure.
According to the Ottawa Citizen:
Issues with the ejection seat system on board the CT-114 aircraft were identified in 2015. Canadian Forces tests evaluating the performance of the system were finished in 2016, the military confirmed.
“Based on those results, it was determined that the most effective way to improve the system would be through a parachute upgrade program, which will identify and assess candidate canopy designs, perform testing for airworthiness clearance, and eventually implement a new parachute system in the CT114,” the Canadian Forces noted in an email. “We are still very early in the project.”
No information was provided on when the upgrade would be completed or how much it would cost. Military sources say the cost is relatively minor.
No explanation was provided about why action on the parachute upgrade was not started when the problem was identified four years ago.
The Canadian military has confirmed to the Ottawa Citizen that the Airforce is now undertaking an upgrade to the existing ejection system of the CT-114 Tutors.
The aircraft were initially scheduled to be retired and replaced in 2020, as part of a $755 million upgrade to the aerial team in a decision made in 2012 by the Harper Conservatives. However, that procurement was cancelled and the lifespan of the Vietnam War era fleet was extended to 2030 by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.