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

Students at Stanley Humphries will be staging Nightmare on Seventh. L-R Emily Conley and Claire Cartwright are all dressed up and ready to go. Photo: Jennifer Small
Zombie apocalypse coming to Castlegar

High school students staging scary food drive

A view of the Burton Flats area. Photo: Submitted
Work progresses on man-made wetland near Burton

The project is already seeing modest results

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

There are few details but neighbours a Second Avenue house in Chilliwack say a huge police presence descended on the home after shots were heard. (File photo)
RCMP looking for witnesses in $5000 auto part theft

Two catalytic converters valued around $5000 were taken Oct. 22

Mayor Bruno Tassone was presented with a poppy to launch the Castlegar Legion’s annual poppy campaign. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar Legion kicks off poppy campaign

Remembrance Day ceremonies will look different this year

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

A Cranbrook mother is receiving praise across the world for her design of a sensory path aimed at helping kids in school when they need a movement break. (Chantal Marra file)
Cranbrook mother receives international praise for sensory paths business

Chantal Marra has sold her sensory path packages to schools across the world

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Most Read