An accident report suggests that a military pilot was distracted and trying to see where a practice bomb had landed just before the deadly CF-18 fighter jet crash that claimed his life in November 2016.
The final report of the military’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority found no evidence of a mechanical failure or bird strike in the crash near Cold Lake, Alta., that killed Capt. Thomas McQueen of Hamilton. There was no indication that the pilot was incapacitated.
There were also no radio transmissions from the plane in the moments before impact and the pilot did not eject.
McQueen had just dropped a practice bomb in a low-level exercise when the crash occurred, the report said.
“It appears that the pilot was capable of controlling the aircraft, but did not adequately monitor the aircraft’s flight path while manoeuvring in the low-level environment,” it said. The plane banked sharply and the nose dropped.
McQueen may have tried to recover at the last second, but was too low to pull out.
“While the reason for this lack of flight path monitoring is not knowable with any certainty, circumstantial evidence suggests that the pilot may have been distracted from the critical task of terrain clearance while attempting to spot his weapon impact.”
The exercise was designed to drop the bomb from an altitude of just under 200 metres.
The report said rules have been changed to raise the acceptable altitude for such training to more than 300 metres and to underline safety standards for low flying.
“The low-level environment is an inherently hazardous and unforgiving region where only a few seconds of distraction can mean the difference between life and death,” the report said.