Military spending and Snowbird tragedy

Dear Editor,

As an auxiliary member of the Snowbird team during my posting at CFB Moose Jaw (1976-1982), the recent fatal crash is sad news. The Tutor aircraft were initially purchased in the early 1960s and basically retired in 2000, save for the inventory that presently fulfills the requirements of 431 Snowbird Air Demonstration Squadron.

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Yes, even during my tenure, there were problems … with tail assemblies and engine compressor stalls. There were fatalities, also. However, our dedicated ground and aircrews tirelessly worked to keep the serviceability and maintenance at a very high level.

Looking back over several decades, there is an old lesson to be re-learned in Canada from the sorry epilogue of the Avro Arrow. National security cannot be procured on the cheap. Political leaders in democratic countries have always tended to shy away from that unpalatable truth. And yet, how many times in recent history have those same politicians, who shrank from asking the electorate to spend money on national security, unhesitatingly and shamelessly asked the country’s youth to lay down their lives to restore it?

Furthermore, governments today have an uncanny wisdom to provide life extensions to aircraft airframes that is beyond any reasoning of aeronautical engineers.

The replacement of the Sea King helicopters and, more recently, after 14 years of procrastination, for new fighter jets to replace the aging CF-18 Hornet, are two examples.

Will the Snowbirds team remain grounded until the aging fleet is replaced? I doubt that will happen; the government has already extended their aircraft life expectancy to 70 years of service.

John Fefchak (Chief Warrant Officer (ret’d), RCAF & Canadian Armed Forces)


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