Canada’s Department of National Defense has issued its final report regarding the November 28th, 2016 crash that claimed the life of pilot Captain Thomas McQueen, outside of Cold Lake. The report describes pilot error and distraction in the cockpit as the cause of the crash.
The report described the crash as a “preventable accident” and states that further training in low-levels flight technique is recommended.
Capt. McQueen was a ten year veteran of the Canadian Air Force and stationed at 4-Wing Cold Lake at the time of the crash. He was the lead on a two-aircraft training exercise.
According to statements at the time of the crash, the mission’s objective was to deliver two bombs, which were followed by two laser-guided training rounds at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. Each pilot was to drop the bombs from a low altitude.
McQueen was flying at around 600 feet when he attempted the manoeuvre.
The reports says that McQueen did not eject from the cockpit or make any mayday calls. A parachute was discovered at the crash site.
He was killed when his aircraft struck the ground while making a descending left turn.
“This accident once again demonstrates that old but hard learned lessons can sometimes be forgotten and that 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 says.
“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, and allowed the aircraft to enter an overbank situation and the nose to drop well below the horizon.”
Ruled out, as causes of the crash, in the investigation was mechanical failure, a bird strike or pilot incapacitation.
“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.”
Investigators also suggest McQueen’s failure to follow safe flying practices triggered the “unsurvivable” crash.
Recommended in the report was reinforced training with CF-18 squadrons to educate on reccomended strategies for inherent risks and maintaining safe flight paths.