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New air force commander says he’s confident in the airworthiness of the Snowbirds

Lt.-Gen. Eric Kenny, the new commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, sees a bright future ahead for the Snowbirds despite the planes having been grounded after a plane crashed following a hard landing in Fort Saint John, B.C. earlier this month.

Speaking to the CBC after his instalment ceremony at the National Air and Space Museum in Ottawa, Lt.-Gen. Kenny said he’s optimistic about the future of the Snowbirds and is “looking forward to having them showcased in the 2024 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

The team flies in CT-114 Tutor aircraft manufactured more than 50 years ago but the planes are regularly inspected and maintained by military crews.

In June, an issue with the deployment of a parachute system during the ejection sequence caused the cancellation of several airshow appearances for the team.

A bird strike incident in May 2020 claimed the life of Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the aerobatics team after her parachute failed to open. The pilot in the crash suffered serious injuries.

Despite a recent series of incidents and a tragedy involving the planes, Lt.-Gen. Kenny said there’s no talk of replacing the fleet. 

“We have a really rigorous airworthiness program that factors all the things that you would want to look at,” Lt.-Gen. Kenny said. “Each one of those incidents that have occurred has undergone a rigorous process to include talking to the aircrew and the ground crew to make sure that they’re confident in flying that aircraft.”

Former Snowbirds commanding officer Lt. Robert “Scratch” Mitchell shares the Kenny’s confidence in the Tutors. He told CBC that airplane maintenance is “measured more in terms of the flying hours on the airplane than they are in the year of their age.”

Mitchell said at regular intervals, the planes are “essentially ripped apart and rebuilt and made anew” on top of that, all military aircraft go through regular inspections and annual maintenance.

There is no clear timeline for when the Snowbirds may return to flying.

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