CT114009 Tutor - Epilogue

Report / February 4, 2020 / Project number: CT114009 - E Category

Location: Comox, BC
Date: 26 April 2019
Status: Investigation Completed

The occurrence involved a CT114 Tutor aircraft from the Canadian Armed Forces Air Demonstration Team (Snowbirds) practicing a show routine in preparation for the upcoming air show season.

The Tutor was flying at 600 ft. above ground level in a formation of 4 aircraft. One of the wingman aircraft was rolled into inverted flight as part of the setup for the Double-Take maneuver. Having rolled-out lower than normal in plane to the lead aircraft, the pilot lost visual contact with Lead. The pilot executed a barrel roll to regain level attitude while maneuvering clear from the lead aircraft and the rest of the formation. The aircraft landed safely without further incident.

The investigation determined that the pilot became spatially unaware following the roll to inverted flight; that is, the pilot did not know their exact position in space relative to Lead or the horizon. The pilot felt they had started drifting underneath the lead aircraft. This illusion was strong enough that the pilot felt uncomfortable executing a negative G push on the control column due to the perceived feeling they would contact Lead. The horizon appeared in the pilot’s visual periphery and judging this as the safest method of escaping the formation, the pilot then executed a positive G barrel roll towards the horizon and away from the perceived, last-known position of Lead.

The investigation recommends that the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron flying training plan is amended to ensure multiple breakout scenarios are explored and exercised for pilots flying inverted flight routines. The investigation also recommends that the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron Standard Manoeuvres Manual include additional scenarios whereby sight of the preceding aircraft is lost while in close formation and provide the guidance required on how to recover safely under those circumstances.

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