November 29, 2016 2:45 pm
Updated: November 29, 2016 3:30 pm

CF-18 fighter jet crashes are rare despite Cold Lake fatal: RCAF

WATCH ABOVE: A routine training missing at CFB Cold Lake ended in tragedy Monday as a fighter pilot lost control of his CF-18 fighter jet. Investigators with the Department of National Defence are working to determine a cause. Kim Smith reports.

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The crash of a fighter jet near Cold Lake, Alberta Monday resulted in the death of pilot Capt. Thomas McQueen, though the cause of the crash is unknown.

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The aircraft involved was a CF-18 Hornet, the primary fighter jet utilized by the Canadian Forces. Though the jets have been in service for Canada since 1983, Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, says the jets have a history of success and safety.

“We got these aircraft in 1983. Most of them started being built between ’77 and ’83,” Huebert told Global News.

READ MORE: CF-18 fighter jet pilot dies in crash near Cold Lake, Alta.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) said there have been 19 crashes involving CF-18 Hornets. Of those incidents, 11 have included fatalities.

It’s a number that Huebert says points to the reliability of the jets.

“The CF-18 has been a very successful aircraft.”

Watch Below: Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan offers his condolences on behalf of Canada to the family of the fallen Canadian pilot Capt. Thomas McQueen. 

The last crash of a Canadian CF-18 was in November, 2010. The jet crashed after the pilot was blinded by snow while attempting to land at the Cold Lake base. The pilot ejected from the CF-18 and parachuted to safety.

Four months earlier, at an airshow practice in southern Alberta, another CF-18 crashed. A military investigation concluded that a piston in the jet got stuck during a maneuver. The pilot ejected seconds before the crash and survived.

Watch Below: CF-18 crashes and explodes during practice for Lethbridge air show in July 2010.

The last Canadian Air Force pilot killed while operating a CF-18 was Capt. Kevin Naismith, in June, 2003, also in Cold Lake, Alberta.

A report released by the Air Force Flight Safety Investigators said that the captain’s death was the result of the jet’s high speed, low altitude and the pilot’s ejection from the plane during an “adverse motion of the aircraft” near the Cold Lake base.

READ MORE: Canada’s fleet of CF-18 fighter jets can fly beyond 2025, says air force commander

Monday’s crash was also one of many that have happened in the area.

Watch Below: Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says they “lost someone very important to the armed force family.” 

The Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake base, located near the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, is one of the busiest fighter bases in Canada and only one of two that are used by the CF-18 jets. It’s also located on one end of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), a nearly 12,000 square kilometre tract of land used for live training with hundreds of targets, runways, missile launching sites and military equipment.

Huebert says the variety of difficult training operations and the fact fighter jets are highly complex machines requiring highly-skilled operators creates the possibility of a crash.

“One of the problems that you always have with very advanced fighter aircraft is given what they are required to do. Crashing is unfortunately part of the profession,” Huebert said.

“Amongst the crashes that have occurred, there’s a wide range and nothing really in terms of an ongoing problem can be attributed.”

 

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