COLD LAKE, Alta. — The pilot of a CF-18 fighter jet that crashed near the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary has died.
The Air Force said the single-seat fighter was based out of Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in northeastern Alberta and went down Monday morning on the Saskatchewan side of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. The range covers almost 30,000 square kilometres across the two provinces.
The pilot was not identified pending notification of next of kin.
The single-seat CF-18 that crashed was based out of Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. (Photo: Royal Canadian Air Force)
Speaking in Ottawa, Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood said the plane crashed during a routine training mission by 401 Squadron, one of two CF-18 squadrons at the Cold Lake base. The base is the busiest fighter base in the country and provides fighter pilot training for all Canadian Forces pilots.
"It's a very, very sad day for the RCAF and our hearts go out to the family of our fallen member,'' Hood said. "More details will be forthcoming. It's just a reminder of the dangerous work that we ask the men and women of our air force and our armed forces to do every day.''
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he couldn't speculate on what caused the crash. A flight safety investigation is to look into what went wrong.
"It's a very, very sad day for the RCAF and our hearts go out to the family of our fallen member."
"It's too preliminary to make any type of judgement or conclusions,'' Sajjan said.
"The best thing we can do right now is give the Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces the space to do the necessary work and then we will have more to say about that.''
Conservative Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose, along with defence critics, also offered condolences.
"As we await more details from the Department of National Defence and Forces officials, our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot's family and the Canadian Armed Forces members at CFB Cold Lake,'' said a news release.
"Any loss of life within Canada's proud military is a tragic event, one that is deeply felt by the Forces community and the friends and loved ones of the deceased.''
At least 10 pilots have died in crashes with CF-18s since the military bought 138 of the jets for $5 billion in 1980.
In 2003, Cpt. Kevin Naismith was killed when the CF-18 he was flying went down during an international training exercise at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. The 38-year-old was killed by the impact of a loose harness strap that snapped taut and struck his head. An investigation found the plane had spun out of control because of a malfunctioning stabilizer in the jet's tail end.
Sajjan has said many of the force's aging CF-18s are out of service on any given day because of maintenance issues. The Liberal government is preparing to negotiate the purchase of 18 new Super Hornet fighter jets that it says it needs until a competition to replace the CF-18s is complete.
The Air Force announced last week that all 77 of Canada's CF-18s will be able to fly until 2025. Hood also said Canada's allies are developing ways to upgrade the aircraft to reduce the risks and costs if the jets are needed for even longer.
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