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Dozens of B.C. pilots plan flyover to honour Snowbirds after deadly crash


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More than two dozen pilots in B.C. were planning a memorial flyover to pay their respects after a deadly Snowbirds crash in Kamloops, B.C., killed one military captain and left another badly injured on Sunday.

More than 35 members of the B.C. General Aviation Association (BCGAA) have signed up to fly over the Lower Mainland on Monday evening, taking off together from the Abbotsford Airport around 6 p.m. PT.

“Let’s pick up where the Snowbirds left off, in honour of Capt. Jenn Casey, in their mission to fly over Canada to lift the spirits of Canadians,” the association wrote in an online post Monday.

Casey, a spokesperson with the Snowbirds and former journalist, was killed when a Snowbirds jet crashed into a residential neighbourhood shortly after taking off from the Kamloops, B.C. airport just before noon PT on Sunday. The pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall, was seriously hurt in the crash but is expected to survive.

Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died Sunday in the crash. (Royal Canadian Air Force)

The Snowbirds, in their white and red jets, had been touring the country for Operation Inspiration, a flyover mission intended as an uplifting tribute to Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BCGAA has named its memorial flyover “Operation Backup Inspiration.”

Participating pilots will fly over Abbotsford, Langley, White Rock, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Burnaby, the North Shore and Vancouver before breaking off in Burnaby to fly to their home airports.

The association warned pilots that there will be no formation flying. Planes must remain half a mile apart.

Memorial begins at Kamloops airport

A sombre memorial along the fence at the Kamloops Airport grew steadily on Monday as locals came to pay their respects to the Snowbirds the day after the crash.

Mike Gregson arrived early, kneeling in silence as he fixed his old personal rank, insignia and shoulder flash to the fence early Monday. He’d saved them for decades from his time as a teenager in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, back when he dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot.

Mike Gregson, who lives in Kamloops, B.C., tied to the fence his old insignia from his time in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as a show of respect. (Chris Corday/CBC)

“It just means something to me,” said Gregson, wearing a worn ball cap with the roundel of the Royal Canadian Air Force on the front.

“I just came by here to pay my respects for the folks who came here and wanted to be able to provide to the country an inspirational show and a show of support for all of us here in Canada.”

Gregson ties his old shoulder flash from the Royal Canadian Air Cadets to the fence on Monday. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The Snowbirds’ CT-114 Tutor aircraft went into a steep nosedive shortly after takeoff Sunday, bursting into flames in the front yard of a nearby home. Video showed at least one person ejecting from the aircraft before impact.

The Royal Canadian Air Force confirmed in a statement later in the afternoon that Casey was killed. The 34-year-old pilot, Capt. MacDougall, parachuted out of the plane and landed on a roof a few houses away from the crash site. His mother said her son is in stable condition.

A family left a note in tribute to Casey along the fencing at Kamloops Airport. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Gregson, an engineer, had watched the Snowbirds with reverence during an earlier flight on Saturday.

“There was a number of us out in the parks, in the field over there, and it was great to see them,” he said.

“It was devastating,” he said of learning about the crash. “I was in shock. I had just come back from walking the dog and my neighbour came over and he said there’d been a crash. It’s just unbelievable.”

A memorial grew Monday morning along the fencing at Kamloops Airport in Kamloops, B.C., where a Canadian Snowbirds jet took off Sunday before crashing in a nearby neighbourhood. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Justin Bailey, another resident, brought his five-year-old daughter, Aria, to the memorial on Monday. He hoisted her on his shoulders and told her about the planes and the pilots who fly them.

“We just wanted to pay our respects to the Snowbirds…. Military is really important in a time like this, and it’s important to show your respects.” said Bailey, who, like Gregson, had also seen the jets earlier in the weekend.

“It was pretty exciting to see them on Saturday, but then to hear the news was quite sad.”

Casey was originally from Halifax. Her biography with the RCAF said she joined Canada’s Armed Forces in 2014 after several years working as a journalist. 

www.cbc.ca 2020-05-18 16:37:48

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