REGINA (SNN) -- The military jet trainer that crashed near Moose Jaw Friday afternoon might have been brought down by a bird, the commander of the Canadian Forces' 15 Wing said Monday.
"What's being looked at is a bird strike -- the ingestion by the engine of a bird," Col. Alain Boyer said. "That's what the No. 1 theory is right now. That would explain the loss of thrust from the engine."
Canadian Forces Capt. John Hutt, the instructor aboard the Hawk trainer, and the student, flight Lieut. Ed Morris of Britain's Royal Air Force, both ejected at about 300 meters.
Morris was unhurt and was back at the base Friday night, but Hutt is in Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital with a broken leg, Boyer said Monday. "He was operated on last night."
Investigating the crash is a team of about 10 people, including personnel from the Canadian Forces Directorate of Flight Safety, the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment at Cold Lake, Alta., and specialists in medicine and safety systems.
15 Wing's 19 remaining Hawk aircraft were briefly grounded, but were back in service Monday, said Boyer.
The loss of the Hawk jet will not affect the base's training schedule because losses through attrition were built into the original order for aircraft, he added.
The crash of the CT-155 Hawk occurred late Friday afternoon as the aircraft was doing "touch-and-go" landings. In these, a crew practises landings by lining up on a runway, reducing speed and altitude until it is just above the runway, then applying power, gaining altitude and climbing away.
The aircraft crashed about two kilometres northwest of the base, which itself is located south of Moose Jaw's southern city limits.
The Hawk is used for advanced jet pilot training under the NATO Flight Training in Canada program at 15 Wing, which trains pilots from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Hungary and Singapore as well as Canada.
Listen for the bits where the instructor says "We've lost the engine", performs the restart drill and where he reports to ATC that he's "had an engine failure". The hawk has one engine and will be weighing anything from 4500 to 9000 kg. In such conditions, in the fight against gravity, there will be only one winner. Returning to the airfield for a deadstick landing so soon after take-off is a non-starter since, like most fast jets, the Hawk has the glide ratio of an anvil. (I presume you've seen Roadrunner cartoons.) Ergo, the only practical way for the crew to return to terra firma was courtesy of Martin Baker. Flash was, I am sure, referring to the calm and timely manner the emergency drills and ejection procedure. The thought of a 60g kick in the arse is fairly terrifying in itself (esp. spinal injuries), and that is the MOST attractive option available.
It was clearly a British built a/c. Listen to bitching Betty- do you honestly think the prima-donnas of the USN F-14 community would countenance someone with a British accent telling them what to do?
NFTC: Not Flying The Canadians as they like to call it over there. Canadian jets, paid for by NATO cash, so NATO trg gets first dibs.
Keeping the nose down maintains airspeed and therefore lift. I'm no expert, but I would imagine that there would be some back-up hydraulics on the Hawk. You can just hear the donk winding down, so there might have been enough in the primary hydraulics to level the wings before ejecting.
Anyway, 55 seconds from bird-strike to impact, at low level-low airspeed, still find time to chat to each other to decide who's going to drive while the other tries a relight - good drills.
I have a few hours in the Hawk from FAC days. I remember my instructor getting a bit worried when I tried to quickstop the cab onto Finningley runway after the first sortie. The numbers '90 f*&!ing knots' seem to spring to mind.
Loss of control authority isn't an issue here. They initially pitch up to trade speed for altitude, before bringing the nose down to establish min sink rate (gives them more time to work the problem) and turning downwind. From there they may have attempted a deadstick downwind landing, which would have likely resulted in a Green Endorsement in their log books if it worked, and two funerals if it didn't. Plus, if the engine did relight, they would have been that little bit closer to landing before the engine shakes itself into oblivion.
Once it becomes clear to them that this isn't an option they bring the wings level (20 degrees or so off their downwind heading according to the HUD) and hop out. The only possible criticism of their actions could be the lack of a positive vector (i.e. making sure the jet is pointing uphill) on ejection. This would have established optimum parameters for the the seat's operation.
I like the "Confirm break out to the North?" call from ATC right before the backseater's PLB kicks in.