Snowbirds PAO Captain Jennifer Casey Perishes in Operation Inspiration Accident

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Snowbirds CT-114 cockpit.

On Sunday morning May 17, 2020, shortly before noontime in Kamloops, British Columbia, a pair of RCAF CT-114 Tutors, part of the Snowbirds team, departed the airport carrying the advance coordination team for their next Operation Inspiration stop. Operation Inspiration was a coast-to-coast series of flights over Canadian cities and medical facilities to uplift citizens’ spirits and to honor those affected by COVID-19. Within a minute, one of the jets broke from the formation and climbed alone. Captain Rich MacDougall (Snowbird 11), a team Coordinator, was piloting the jet. The team’s Public Affairs Officer, Captain Jennifer Casey (Snowbird 10), occupied the other seat. After the jet slowed and rolled once, both ejected from their obviously stricken jet, now near vertical in a descent. Captain MacDougall landed on the roof of a house barely under canopy, sustaining critical but non-life threatening injuries. Captain Casey’s parachute didn’t open in time to arrest her fall and she was killed.

“Jenn” as she was known, was a well-known ambassador for the Snowbirds and the RCAF. Soon, an outpouring of grief arrived on social media sites from Canadians far and wide. Many Americans offered their condolences too, as Jenn had worked many events as the Snowbirds Media coordinator in the U. S..

What would have been the next Operation Inspiration leg on the trip… Crown Copyright.

The next stop on the Operation Inspiration flyovers was to be at Kelowna, B.C, but all flight operations by the team were halted immediately after the accident. As an act of support to the Snowbirds and the country, a group of up to 35 general aviation pilots would fly their aircraft from Abbotsford B.C. to the Coquitlam area east of Vancouver. This was a gesture to symbolically “finish” the final leg of the Operation Inspiration flyovers. Here’s what the group had to say, just prior to their flyover:

Operation Backup Inspiration (Snowbird Honour Flight).

MASS FLY-OVER Monday May 18th

The Canadian Snowbirds are the truest form of Canadian Pride. Yesterday they suffered an unimaginable loss during their mission Operation Inspiration Torch and lost a team member in a tragic accident. As an aviation community and Canadian family let’s pick up where the Snowbirds left off in honour of Captain Jenn Casey in their mission to fly over Canada to lift the spirits of Canadians.

The BC General Aviation Association would like to honour the Canadian Snowbirds, Essential Workers and the Canadian Forces as we pick up the torch in a show of solidarity as aviators and as Canadians. 35 Airplanes will depart Abbotsford and fly across the Lower Mainland to pay tribute. These aircraft will not be in any tight formation as we leave that kind of flying to the professionals. Once the first aircraft passes there will be a line of aircraft that will last approximately 14 minutes. Please join us in observing a moment of silence as the group flies over.

Pilots: The designated pilots have been contacted and are briefed. Please do not join unless you have received the briefing. Safety is paramount and if there is any doubt to the safety of this flight it will be cancelled.

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The Snowbirds released a letter from Jenn Casey’s family on Facebook on Wednesday, May 20th.. This is a great tribute and biography which shows Jenn’s strong sense of family and duty.

Statement on behalf of Captain Jennifer Casey’s Family:

Captain Jennifer Casey, our beloved daughter lost her life on Sunday, May 17 in Kamloops, British Columbia while supporting an important mission that seemed to be designed for her. Operation INSPIRATION is a mission with one focus, making Canadians happy in a time of uncertainty and there was no better person in this world to carry out that mission than Jenn. Her beautiful smile and positively infectious personality could brighten anyone’s day and she proudly served the mission as she flew across our great nation with a team that she adored, the Snowbirds.

Jennifer was more than a granddaughter, daughter, sister, and friend to many, she was a story teller, a role that she embraced with passion and skill. She was also a proud Nova Scotian that served as an advocate and ambassador for her province wherever she went. Her journey took her many places but her heart was always at home in Halifax.

It was in Halifax where Jenn studied Journalism at the University of Kings College and started her career in journalism with the Roger’s network at News 95.7 where she developed her story telling skills, giving a voice to local causes and community groups that often didn’t have one. Working with News 95.7 is where she built her enormous network of friends that have spent the last several days sharing kind words about her professionalism and beautiful character. Now they are telling her story.

Always one for an adventure, Jenn joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2014 as a Public Affairs Officer where she thrived personally and professionally. While serving her country, Jenn traveled around the world meeting new friends at every stop along the way. Using her experience and media connections, Jenn was great at telling the stories of the brave men and women that serve Canada at home and abroad. She was committed always to honing her skills and advancing her education in the field by completing a Master of Interdisciplinary Studies from Royal Roads University in B.C.

Many say that the military is much like a second family and Jenn welcomed these brothers and sisters with open arms and all her heart. There are many groups in her military family that are sharing in her loss. First and foremost, we are sharing this loss with the Public Affairs Branch, a group of communications professionals that introduced Jenn to her military family. We also share this loss with everyone in the Royal Canadian Air Force, a group of loving individuals that will always remember Jenn for the contributions that she made to the team.

And finally, we share her loss with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, a team that she proudly served in a job she truly loved. Our hearts are with all of you at this time as we mourn the loss of Jenn and remember all of the memories we shared with her.

As she makes her way back to Nova Scotia to her final resting place, we ask those that knew and loved Jenn to cherish the memories that you have of her and continue to bask in the light that she shone on everyone’s life. She is gone but will never be forgotten.

Captain Jennifer Casey, we salute you.

Photorecon.net author/photographer Mike Colaner remembers meeting Jenn some time ago. “My son and I met Jenn at [Joint Base] McGuire in 2018 and she was so nice to us. It was the end of the show and she walked over and engaged us. Just a wonderful ambassador for the CF-18 team and Snowbirds.” Her RCAF career began at 8 Wing, Trenton Ontario, and then as the CF-18 Demonstration Team PAO, which included the NORAD 60 European Tour. She joined the Snowbirds in 2018.

Jenn’s passing is the third tragedy to hit Nova Scotia in a month. A mass shooting took place within the Province on April 18-19th. A RCAF CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed off of the Greek coastline on April 29th killing six military personnel; the helicopter was part of 12 Wing, headquartered in CFB Shearwater N.S. near Halifax. Now, hard hit Nova Scotia has endured another tragedy, and the Halifax region has lost another service member with Captain Casey’s death.

The aviation community, while widespread, is a tight knit group. Those in the air show and media communities are a smaller set. Judging from the social media messages of support to her fellow Snowbirds and family, Jenn made a huge, positive impact upon the large amount of people who were lucky enough to meet and work with her.

We here at Photorecon.net, ClassicWarbirds.net and CivilAviationWorld.com would like to offer our condolences to her family, friends, Snowbird team members and the RCAF.

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Crown copyright.

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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