THE Spanish Air Force has provisionally suspended all aerobatic exhibitions of its ‘Eagle Patrol’ display team after three consecutive fatal accidents within six months.
In a statement revealed by the Air Force, the team will cancel upcoming
events to further understand the causes of these accidents and to put new procedures into place to prevent further incidents.
The cancellation will also allow the team to enrol a replacement for Commander Eduardo Garvalena, a key figure in the display team and one that performs manoeuvres that require unique skills.
Normal procedures require that a pilot trains his or her successor; however Garvalena’s successor, Commander Francisco Marin, was also killed in an accident six months earlier near the team’s base in San Javier, Murcia.
So far, investigators have not found the cause of the accidents but have
not ruled out mechanical failures of the 40-year-old CASA C-101 aircraft
and questions have been asked of the usability of aircraft as well as the flight hours that pilots endure.
The Spanish General Air Academy is unique in the fact that pilots must
juggle their preparation for their spectacular air displays with teaching and training flights.
Sources inside the academy have claimed that extended flight hours have
had a huge effect on the pilots.
In the wake of the accidents, the Air Force will take the withdrawal from the team’s display season, May to October, as an opportunity to review its training program to ease the workload of both pilots and aircraft.
The cancellations will ground the fleet for all aerobatic displays this summer but they will still perform the traditional ‘Flag Painting in the
Sky’ for Spain’s National Armed Forces Day.