Former Snowbird leader mourns jet crash victim

Former Snowbird leader mourns jet crash victim

B.C.’s George Miller predicts this could – but he hopes it doesn’t – spell the demise of his old team

If Langley’s George Miller had known about it in time, he might very well have asked to fly among the 35 pilots performing a memorial Snowbirds flyby over the Lower Mainland skies tonight.

Miller, a retired Canadian Air Force pilot and one of the early Snowbirds leaders, was mortified to learn of Sunday’s plane crash in Kamloops, which killed Capt. Jennifer Casey, shortly after takeoff.

RELATED: B.C. pilots to honour Snowbirds member killed in crash with Lower Mainland flyover

“Just watching that, knowing what she must have gone through. She obviously just bailed out way too late,” he said, admitting he watched the video of the crash over and over again trying to determine what must have gone wrong.

It’s been almost 50 years since he flew with the Snowbirds, in the same CT-114Tutor jets flown today.

Miller fears the age of the aircraft might have played a key role in the tragic crash that killed Casey and seriously injured pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall.

Just like others, Miller is in the dark about what actually caused the crash. He speculates it could have been a technical or mechanical issue.

“The tragic thing is that we’ve been flying this aircraft since 1963. What other nation would fly them that long?” he posed.

Miller said that along with another accident in Atlanta last October – where a pilot ejected unhurt – this fatal crash in the B.C. Interior is likely to confirm the high-performance jets are overdue for retirement.

“They’ve got to determine if it’s worth flying these aircraft, keeping these going, and keeping it going,” Miller said.

“And because of COVID-19 and the expenditures of the federal government right now – ones it’s already committed to – there’s not going to be money to buy new aircraft. That’s my feeling,” Miller assessed.

MORE: Snowbirds pause flights as military, public mourn service member killed in crash

“And, of course, with the 50th anniversary [of the Snowbirds this year], if they’re ever thinking of shutting this team down, this could be it,” he added, emphasizing that he has no inside knowledge.

Miller believes the Snowbirds will be shuttered or transformed from a military to civilian team.

That’s simply conjecture on his part, he reiterated, clarifying that the first job at hand will be to investigate the cause of the crash, and figure out why it stalled and barrelled down to the ground.

Miller is wondering why the two didn’t eject sooner, what caused that delay, and why Casey’s parachute never opened?

“They’ll have to go through that whole process, like how did it work out? What could have been done better? And whether there was any mistakes made, or what the mechanical problems were, and so on. Then determine what to be done with the team,” Miller said.

“There’s just no sense that they will get another aircraft, so what do they do?” he pondered.

“I think it would be very brave of the Prime Minister, since there’s so much money spent anyways, that he put some money behind this and keep the team going. I don’t know, but that doesn’t seem to be the nature of the way things are happening.”

This comes from a long-time member of the Canadian Air Force. In fact, Miller served 35 years – including a stint as the first national team leader of the Snowbirds in 1973 to 1974.

In more recent years, he served as manager of the Langley Regional Airport, worked a short stint with the Pitt Meadows Airport, and founded the Fraser Blues formation flying team.

While he’s fully retired now, Miller still heads up the Langley-based aerobatic team. They’re a four-member team, including his son Guy Miller, who still perform at a number of special events including missing man formations, large funerals, and the 75-aircraft flyby during Langley airport’s 75th anniversary a few years back.

Fraser Blues typically fly once a week or so. In particular, they’ve been flying the past four Fridays, Miller noted.

“Because of COVID-19, I’ve been trying to do sort of inspirational flights. Sort of the same idea as the Snowbirds, actually. We’ve been flying over various towns, like over Langley… and do special manoeuvres over the airport.”

Miller heard nothing about the tribute flight into Vancouver until late in the day on Monday, but said the Fraser Blues – when they get back together again next to fly – might very well do a tribute flypast over Langley.

RELATED: George Miller named to Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame

Tonight, planes will take off from Abbotsford’s airport at 6:30 p.m, and fly over Langley, White Rock, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam, Port Moody, the North Shore, Vancouver and Burnaby before dispersing to their home airports.

The flight is being dubbed Operation Backup Inspiration, since – when the crash occurred – the Snowbirds were conducting a cross-country tour to uplift Canadians during the coronavirus outbreak.

– with Black Press Media files

_________________________________

Is there more to this story?

Email: news@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

_________________________________

aviationCoronavirusLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

High winds blow wet snow in Prince Rupert on Feb. 24. The region is expecting two to four cm of snow and winds up to 100 km per hour. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
High wind warnings for North Coast, up to 4 cm of snow expected

Wet snow makes driving conditions in Prince Rupert slippery

Pink shirt day was celebrated at Pineridge Elementary School by staff and students in a stand against bullying. Mr. Craig, a work-experience student from Charle Hays Secondary School is seen with students in front of the hearts for kindness board on Feb. 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pineridge students stand against bullying

Prince Rupert students in the pink with kindness

A Prince Rupert neighbourhood on Feb. 23, showing various housing with an apartment building development in the background. Housing advocates in the city say affordable housing is scarce.(Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Recruitment campaign creates housing availability debate

“There is a serious disconnect here, with the new recruitment campaign,” - Paul Lagace

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The City of Prince Rupert has received $1 million in provincial funding to assist redevelopment of the waterfront and support the Prince Rupert Waterfront Airport Ferry Landing development project. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
City to receive part of $20 million for waterfront development

Funding will support the Prince Rupert airport ferry relocation project

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read