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Pilot Escapes Exploding Jet With Seconds to Spare

Jul 24, 2010 – 10:54 AM
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Hugh Collins

Hugh Collins Contributor

(July 24) -- A Canadian pilot had the closest of close escapes on Friday when he ejected from his fighter jet just moments before it crashed and exploded in an enormous ball of flame.

It was "a really big, big ball of fire," eyewitness Ian Martens told CTV News. "The plane basically disappeared into a giant dome of orange."

Pilot Capt. Brian Bews was practicing for the Alberta International Airshow at Lethbridge County Airport in southern Alberta. He was in a CF-18 jet that is used for air shows only when some unknown problem caused the plane to crash.

Bews can count himself lucky after escaping from what could have been a fatal accident with nothing worse than a sore back and scrapes on his arms.

"The pilot did eject safely but was dragged several hundred feet unconscious along the ground," eyewitness Darren Jansens said, according to The Associated Press.

Jansen, a flight buff, told the AP that Bews was practicing a maneuver known as a High Alpha Pass immediately before the giant plane plunged to the ground.

The pass involves moving at a low speed close to the ground.

Bews, who has left hospital and is apparently in good spirits, grew up in a small farming community in Saskatchewan, according to The Calgary Herald. As a child, he used to watch planes fly over the family farm.

"I always loved aviation," Bews said last month.

The air show he was practicing for is scheduled to go ahead this weekend, but without the planned CF-18 demonstration.

Canada's Department of National Defense and Transport is investigating what caused the crash. A spokesman for the airport declined to comment on any possible causes to CTV.

The Canadian air force said that the accident won't have any impact on the use of CF-18 jets.

"It is one of the most reliable airplanes you can buy on the market. Its safety record is second to none," 2nd Lt. Christopher Daniel told the AP. "I have no problem getting in the airplane and I know that Capt. Bews will be eager to get back in as well."
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