May 2008

Capt Tom "Jammer" Rowan
CF-18   pilot   409 TFTS 87-89



I can fill in a lot of the blanks on your CF-18 crash list.  I was on course 5 of the CF-18 program and graduated in December 1986.
12 April crash was Capt Gerry Milligan
4 May 1987 spelling is Capt Dean Beselt and Capt Ken Gerhards
21 Sep 1987 Maj Mike Stacey
5 April 1988  Capt Mike"Lief" Erikson hit a mountaintop at 10,000'
11 Jan 1989 Capt Wally Niemi crashed onto frozen Siebert lake
4 April 1990 Capt Pierre Trottier crashed on low level training mission
22 April 1990 Capt Hollis Tucker crashed unexplained into Pacific from high altitude
21 Jan 1990 Capt Rich Corver night mission -50C
17 April 1990 Capt Kirk Leuty was killed Reg Decoste survived
15 June 1995 Capt Alex"Fuji" Day
5 July 1995 Capt "Beetle" Bailey

I knew all the guys who crashed except Gerry Milligan and Beetle Bailey.  I don't know Bailey's first name but everyone called him Beetle like the comic cartoon character.  There was also a CF-18 takeoff ejection up on Frobisher Bay, Iqualuit in the late nineties and the pilot was Capt "Grapes" Welsh out of 425 Squadron, Bagotville..  I'm not sure of the date but he was safe and sound with no injuries at all!  I'll try and find out more about that one for you.

The aircraft was a total loss as it burned completely.  As another aside, the CF-18 that went off the runway in Alconbury(Dean Friedt) in the UK, broke in half, but didn't catch fire.

The Canadian Forces had enough money in the repair budget to have it repaired.  It cost over $20 million bucks to do it and a scrapped US Navy F-18 A model for the front end.  I actually flew the maintenance test flight on her and although it was a tad bent, it flew fine and went back into service!  So please note that the airplane was resurrected!

The crash of 919 into the Black Forest also brings back memories.  Capt Beselt and "GNU" Gerhard were in hospital down in Lahr when my son was born.  He was born May 2nd of '87.

I went around the hall to see them and they were in the same room in their beds with the hospital white on and Dean Beselt's wife was there and Gnu's girlfriend.  They both had sore backs as a result of the ejections . We spoke about the crash. Dean was the test pilot and they were doing a maintenance test flight on the jet out of Baden with the recovery planned to be in Lahr at the beginning of a big, 3 day exercise. The aircraft had underwing VER pylons so it would be ready for the ground attack phase of the exercise.  Bad idea.  You can't do a complete test flight with underwing stores on!  When up around 35,000 feet, doing the spin recovery mode test, the aircraft C of G was too far back and the jet went into an unrecoverable spin for 65 seconds.  Dean tried everything to save the jet but it just wouldn't stop spinning.  Their helmets were being smashed against the canopy from side to side as the jet went into an inverted spin! Finally at about 10,000', with no sign of recovery they punched out and landed safely right next to some power lines!

Wally Niemi was on my course and Hollis Tucker went to the Sault College flying program with me before we joined the Air Force.  Kirk Leuty was on my CF-5 and CF-18 courses and we trained together during the Air to Air phase. He was a good stick and had no problems with any of his flying training.  The mid-air he had with Reg "Bull" Decoste was on a 1 v 1 BFM training mission over Karlsruhe.  On the turn in after fights on, they both made several attempts to miss each other but kept mirroring each others' moves.  Reg said it was like walking down a hallway and when you try to avoid a guy coming the other way, he turns the same way you do.  At over 1000 knots of closure the time just got too short.  Reg's jet was in a max G pullup when they hit and his wingtip went through poor Kirks cockpit from below. Reg doesn't remember ejecting but he hit the ground on the Autobahn #5 and almost got hit by a speeding Mercedes!  He was in a wheelchair at Kirk's funeral and no-one was talking to him. (it wasn't Reg's fault but some guys thought it was)  I spoke with him and told him it could have happened to any of us and it wasn't his fault. He really needeed to hear that, I felt.

Lief Erikson's crash still bugs me to this day.  He went out in a terrible storm out of the "Q" in Comox with his wingie "Richmo" when the SAR helo and buffalo wouldn't!!!  He found this little boat in distress off the coast with a DF steer and passed on his position to Norad.  Lief let down over the water off the coast of Vancouver Island to find this poor fisherman in a frikkin' storm and during his climb back to altitude, he hits the highest mountain on the west coast just a few meters from the top. He deserved at least a Distinguished Flying Cross for this selfless act of heroism!!! I've often though of contacting Awards and Decorations Canada and writing up a citation for him.  His Commanding officer should have done it.

God bless all the guys who died in those crashes. Most were my friends.  If you have any questions please don't ever hesitate to write or call me.


Capt Tom "Jammer" Rowan


CF-18 pilot 409 TFS  87-89 Baden, West Germany.  TLP Tactical Leadership Program grad fall course of 1988  Jever, West Germany. FWIC  Fighter Weapons Instructor 1989 grad.Cold lake.

CF-5 instructor pilot 419 TFTS 89-92 Cold Lake, Alberta

F-16C instructor pilot 311th, 308th and 309th TFTS's Luke AFB, Phoenix, Arizona on exchange with the USAF

CF-18 maintenance flight test pilot Mirabel airport Montreal, 97-99

Finished my Air Force career with 2650 fighter hours over 15 years.

Currently I'm a captain at Air Canada on the E-190 Embraer and also was capatin on the CRJ and F/O on the Boeing 767.  I've been here over 10 years now and am approaching 10.000 hours of flight time.

I live in Montreal now with my wife and 3 kids.