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A Canadian CF-18 fighter takes off from CFB Trenton in Trenton. Ont. Thursday October 11, 2001

KEVIN FRAYER/THE CANADIAN PRES

A Canadian Armed Forces pilot is dead after a CF-18 fighter jet crashed in Saskatchewan during a training exercise near the Cold Lake air force base in Alberta.

Lieutenant-General Michael Hood, who is the head of the RCAF, said the accident happened during a "routine training mission" carried out by 401 Squadron, which is based in Alberta. The crash occurred inside the "air weapons range," an area of protected air space in which fighter jets can engage in simulated combat missions or drop weapons on ground targets.

"Any time you get up in an aircraft and ask people to do the types of things that we do to be ready for our jobs day in and day out, there is a certain element of danger," Lt.-Gen. Hood said. "It's just a reminder of the dangerous work that we ask of the men and women of our air force and our armed force every day."

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The pilot's next of kin had yet to be notified, and the pilot was not identified.

Neither Lt.-Gen. Hood nor Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would speculate on what caused the crash.

"It's too preliminary to make any type of judgment or conclusions," Mr. Sajjan said. "The best thing we can do right now is give the Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces the space to do the necessary work, and then we will have more to say about that."

There are now 76 CF-18s remaining in Canada's fleet of fighter jets.

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