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Mon, Jul 10, 2006

Despite Age, No Replacements In Sight For Snowbird Jets

Tutor Trainers Are 43 Years Old

As Canada ramps up on military spending, some officials are calling for the company's Defense Department to throw a little money towards replacing the aging CT-114 Tutor trainers flown by the Snowbirds precision flying team.

The issue, like the Tutor, is not new. The London Free Press reports the Snowbirds have been involved in no fewer than 12 major accidents -- including five fatalities -- involving 19 aircraft since 1972... when the two-seat trainers were already nine years old.

However, a briefing note to Chief of Defense Staff Rick Hillier, obtained by the Free Press, show the Canadian military is strongly considering keeping the Tutors flying until 2020 at the earliest -- despite a lack of parts availability for the aging planes, as well as an "increased risk of unexpected problems."

A program aimed at replacing the Tutors was launched in 2001 -- but first on the list of available options, according to an update report from the Canadian Defense Department, is to maintain the "status quo." Near the bottom of the list of options including cutting the fleet back to make more parts available for flying aircraft, as well as introducing a smaller Snowbirds team, using four advanced CF-18 fighters.

Plans first unveiled in 2003 to bring a fleet of Hawk aircraft onboard to replace the Tutors have also reportedly been placed on hold.

As Aero-News reported, the most recent accident involving a Snowbirds plane occurred last August, when a jet flying to an airshow went down due to mechanical problems. The pilot escaped injury.



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