RCAF marks 60th anniversary of Canuck 18367 crash

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News Article / May 30, 2016

By Alexandra Baillie-David

About 60 veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) gathered on Sunday, May 15, 2016, to remember the lives lost when a CF-100 Canuck aircraft crashed into a convent in Orleans, Ontario, exactly 60 years ago.

“It is important to remember our roots, to remember this disaster and the community’s efforts in the aftermath,” said Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon. “Ceremonies like this give us the opportunity to honour the servicemen and sisters who died in that crash.”

Just after nine o’clock on the evening of May 15, 1956, a Canuck from 445 Squadron took off from RCAF Station Uplands, just outside of Ottawa, for a routine night intercept exercise. Upon reaching a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet (10,058 metres), the pilot, Flying Officer William Schmidt, requested to intercept two other Canuck aircraft that were traveling south at 35,000 feet (10,668 metres).

When permission was denied, Flying Officer Schmidt spoke briefly with ground control and continued going west. The ground controller then turned away from the radar screen before noticing the single track had suddenly disappeared.

In just one minute, Canuck 18367 had fallen from 33,000 feet and crashed into Villa St. Louis, the home of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. Fifteen people were killed, including the pilot and navigator, 11 nuns, a kitchen assistant and a Navy chaplain.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but the accident report states three possibilities. The first is that the pilot flew through the jet wash of the two other aircraft and lost control. The second possibility is the pilot attempted to descend VFR (visual flight rules) through a “sucker hole” (a gap in the overcast layer), exceeded Mach 1 (the speed of sound) and experienced “tuck-under” (when the nose of the aircraft is forced downwards during supersonic speed). The third possibility is that the crew experienced anoxia, a sudden loss of oxygen.

Veterans from the “Knights of the Round Table”, a group of ex-RCAF airmen, and Branch 632 of the Royal Canadian Legion organized the memorial event. Friends and relatives of the victims were also present and paid tribute to their loved ones during the Piper’s Lament (“Flowers of the Forest”) and a reading of “High Flight”.  

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