F-35 Becomes Campaign Issue
The re-opening of Canada’s process to buy new fighters for the RCAF became an inevitability rather than a possibility earlier this week with a carefully timed announcement from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau announced he would scrap the sole source deal to buy 66 F-35 fifth generation fighters from Lockheed Martin for an estimated $44 billion over full 30-year life of the aircraft.
And since the election race is shaping up to be a three-way draw that will result in a minority government, the chances of the F-35 deal going ahead are slim indeed.
Trudeau made the announcement at a shipyard in Halifax and said the money saved by scrapping the F-35 would go to the Navy for new warships. Atlantic Canada is a rich source of potential seats for the Liberals and government shipbuilding contracts have long been the favourite political currency in that area of the country.
What Trudeau didn’t say was what, if anything, the Air Force would get to replace its CF-18s, which are overdue for replacement. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper was tepid in his reaction to Trudeau’s declaration and stopped short of defending the sole source arrangement. Rather, he spoke generally of a need for a modern replacement.
The assumption is that the contract will be re-tendered and that would likely make Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet the leading contender but the political gridlock that will result from minority government likely ensures that the fighter deal won’t proceed anytime soon.
Misfueling Eyed In Manitoba Crash
The president of Keystone Air says a misfueling error may have caused the crash of one of the airline’s Piper Navajos last week, in which all eight occupants walked away with minor injuries.
Cliff Arit said in a statement the company has reason to believe the aircraft “may have been fueled with jet fuel in error, by the aircraft refuelers, rather than avgas, as would have been required for the Navajo.”
The pilots reported problems shortly after taking off after refueling at Thompson, Manitoba on a flight to Winnipeg. They set the aircraft down in some trees just short of the runway and the aircraft was destroyed.
However, emergency crews were amazed when they arrived that they had little to do. There was no fire and the occupants had all gotten out of the plane on their own, with only a few bumps and bruises. The pilots apparently got the worst of it.
“To walk into a site like that and see no fire involved at all was totally amazing,” said Thompson Fire Chief John Maskerine.
Young Pilot Walks Into Propeller
A private pilot in his twenties is in hospital in Quebec City after he inexplicably walked into the rotating prop of the Cessna 150 in which he was a passenger.
The young man, who had about 150 hours, got out of the aircraft on the ramp at Jean-Lesage Airport and was hit on the head by the prop.
Airport spokesman Mathieu Claise said it’s a mystery as to how it could have happened since the man had plenty of experience around small aircraft.
“When you use this type of aircraft, it is evident that you must wait until the propeller is at a complete stop before you disembark,” he told the CBC.
“No matter what, you always walk behind the plane and never walk in front.”
Local police and the TSB are investigating.
Ex-RCAF Starfighter For Sale
A former RCAF CF-104 in flying condition is for sale in Arizona for $1.9 million USD.
The owner identifies it as “the nicest and best Starfighter manufactured by Lockheed for Canada” noting it spent some time with the Norwegian Air Force before being purchased by a private owner in the U.S.
The aircraft entered private ownership before the U.S. government declared a moratorium on the civilian registration of such potent aircraft and the owner says all the paperwork is in order.
He also says there are spare engines and other parts enough to keep the aircraft airworthy “for a long time.”
The Starfighter was a front-line aircraft in Europe and Canadian aircraft were loaded with nuclear bombs that the so-called “Widowmaker” would launch in an arc toward Russian targets.