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Mechanical troubles force 15 Wing trainer plane to land without wheels

This incident is now under investigation by the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety.

MOOSE JAW — Two trainees at 15 Wing Airbase were taken to hospital on June 12 after they were forced to land their plane on its underside after the wheels failed to engage for landing.

The Express asked the airbase for information about the incident with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) plane, with Public Affairs Officer Capt. Jean Doyon responding by email.

“The RCAF is aware of an incident that involved an RCAF CT-156 Harvard II training aircraft at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on 12 June at approximately 10:11 local time,” he said. 

“Both members involved in the incident executed a safe gear-up landing per their training. This incident is now under investigation by the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety, and no more details will be provided at the moment to ensure (the) integrity of the investigative process,” he continued. 

“Both aircrew were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure and subsequently released.”

According to the RCAF’s website, the CT-156 Harvard II — worth $8 million to $10 million — is the preferred aircraft the military uses to help new pilots transition seamlessly from basic flight training to high-performance jet training.

Trainees will spend 95 hours on the Harvard II before they’re streamed into the fighter, multi-engine or helicopter programs for further training.

“The Harvard’s performance, advanced cockpit layout and agile handling make it an ideal stepping stone toward advanced training phases,” the website says. “Its fully pressurized cockpit features an electronic flight instrument system and a global positioning system (GPS).”

The plane is 10.18 metres long, 10.21 metres wide, and 3.25 metres in height. It weighs 2,971 kilograms (6,550 lbs), while its maximum speed is 575 kilometres per hour and has a range of 843 kilometres.

A previous incident with a Harvard II occurred on Oct. 24, 2018, as a student pilot from 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School conducting solo training experienced the symptoms of a G-induced almost-loss of consciousness.

A third incident happened on Jan. 27, 2017, after two pilots — a student and an instructor — ejected from their single-engine Harvard II training aircraft before it crashed south of the base. Both pilots were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, while one was airlifted to the hospital in Regina.

Emergency responders — including Moose Jaw’s fire department, the local RCMP detachment, and the military’s surgeon — were on the scene shortly after the plane went down.

The two pilots had been performing basic aerobatic sequences. During one of those manoeuvres, the trainee pilot reduced the thrust to idle. The instructor pilot took control and selected full power, but by that point, the aircraft’s speed had dropped significantly.

The pilots found themselves flying low and slow when a low oil pressure warning came on, and the engine began to lose power. They reported that they could not climb high enough to try gliding back to the runway, so they performed a controlled ejection, with the plane coming down in a farmer’s field.

A fourth incident with a Harvard II happened on Jan. 24, 2014, after a training aircraft crashed 5.5 kilometres south of Moose Jaw. The two pilots ejected safely and walked away after touching down with parachutes, while medical staff later evaluated them. 

The airbase said then that one of the pilots determined it was not safe to land and that a “controlled ejection” was made. Moreover, the pilot had enough time, prior to ejecting, to set the plane’s controls to ensure it crashed without causing problems on the ground.

The RCAF acknowledged that there was a problem with the landing gear, which contributed to the two pilots ejecting. 

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