COLD LAKE, Alta. – The pilot who died in the crash of a CF-18 fighter jet near the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary has been identified as a Hamilton, Ont., man who had been with the military for a decade.
Col. Paul Doyle, commanding officer of 4 Wing Cold Lake, said Capt. Thomas McQueen was engaged to be married and his fiancee lives in the Cold Lake area.
“I can tell you first-hand how much of an incredible person he was and that he was dedicated to the service of Canada,” Doyle said Tuesday.
“His energy and dedication caused him to be recognized as the leader among his peers. He will be and is forever missed.”
McQueen’s single-seat fighter crashed during a routine training mission over the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan.
Watch below: We’re learning more about the Canadian Air Force pilot killed in a crash during a raining exercise on Monday. Capt. Thomas McQueen was just 29 years old. Shallima Maharaj reports.
An investigation is underway to determine what went wrong.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences in a statement Tuesday.
“This accident is another painful reminder of the dangers that members of the Canadian Armed Forces face every day to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” Trudeau’s statement read, in part.
“A proud member of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Captain McQueen lost his life in the line of duty. His sacrifice will be honoured and remembered by all Canadians.”
WATCH: Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan offers his condolences to the family of Capt. Thomas McQueen
“Operating a supersonic fighter aircraft in dynamic manoeuvring is not something that we take lightly,” Doyle said. “We make sure we train ourselves and prepare ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism.”
Lt.-Col. Joe Mullins said the entire 401 squadron, of which McQueen was a part, feels the loss.
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“We’re very much a family,” Mullins said. “It’s like we lost a member of our family yesterday.”
Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, offered his sympathy in a statement.
“Every day, members of the Canadian Armed Forces prepare themselves for the responsibility of shielding their fellow citizens from harm,” Vance said.
“That training is both rigorous and demanding. It has to be.”
The air weapons range covers almost 30,000 square kilometres spanning the two provinces. Cold Lake is the busiest fighter base in the country and provides fighter pilot training for all Canadian Forces pilots.
WATCH: As a former fighter pilot, the deadly CF-18 crash near Cold Lake, Alta. Monday hits close to home for former Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn. Gord Steinke speaks with Hawn about the tragedy.
At least 10 pilots have died in crashes of CF-18s since the military bought 138 of the jets for $5 billion in 1980.
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In 2003, Cpt. Kevin Naismith was killed when the CF-18 he was flying went down during an international training exercise at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. The 38-year-old was killed by the impact of a loose harness strap that snapped taut and struck his head. An investigation found the plane had spun out of control because of a malfunctioning stabilizer in the jet’s tail end.
The federal government has said many of the force’s aging CF-18s are out of service on any given day because of maintenance issues. The Liberal government is preparing to negotiate the purchase of 18 new Super Hornet fighter jets that it says it needs until a competition to replace the CF-18s can be finished.
The Air Force announced last week that all 77 of Canada’s CF-18s will be able to fly until 2025.