Saturday, May 19, 2007

1 dead in Canadian Snowbirds jet crash

The Canadian Forces Snowbird flight demonstration team lost a pilot during a show rehearsal at Malmstrom Air Force Base yesterday afternoon(5/19/2007).

The Canadian military identified the pilot as Capt. Shawn McCaughey, 31, of Candiac, Quebec. He is the sixth Snowbirds pilot killed in a crash since 1972.

Maj. Robert Mitchell, the Snowbirds' commanding officer, said McCaughey was flying upside down about 300 feet off the ground in a "routine maneuver" when the jet went down. The team had been in the air for about 45 minutes when the crash occurred, said Mitchell, who was flying lead plane. McCaughey made no radio contact and didn't indicate he was having trouble, he said. McCaughey, the only person in the single-engine jet, did not eject. He had been with the Snowbirds for two years.

The team had been scheduled to perform Saturday and Sunday at an open house and sport event at Malmstrom. An event organizer said the open house would continue, but the Snowbirds would not perform. "The team will take an operational pause to remember Shawn McCaughey like we need to, and then we will go back and do the rest of the show season," said Col. Richard Foster, commander of 15 Wing Moose Jaw.

The Snowbirds have been compared to the Navy's Blue Angels. They fly their planes almost daily, year-round - logging 3,700 hours annually.

A Blue Angels pilot died in a crash last month in Beaufort, S.C.