Military probes CF-18 crash
Inuit leaders and community stakeholders offer input

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (NOV 25/96) - Iqaluit Not every Inuit leader is ready to talk about last summer's military jet crash in Iqaluit, but the commander of DND Northern Headquarters in Yellowknife, wants to find to anyone who is.

Col. Pierre Leblanc was in the town last week, meeting with RCMP officers, the local airport manager and Mayor Joe Kunuk, the regional Emergency Measures Operation manager, and Inuit leaders, to discuss the CF-18 crash.

"He (Col. Leblanc) approached it from a one-on-one basis," said Capt. Adam Gray, Leblanc's executive assistant.

Leblanc is gathering information and recording concerns from local groups about the August crash and getting their input on the way it was handled by officials.

"The goal is to put everything back in working order," Gray said.

But Lazarus Arreak, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, met with Leblanc for only five or 10 minutes last week -- merely to introduce each other and establish a working relationship. Arreak said they did not discuss the CF-18 crash but they plan to meet again soon.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Jose Kusugak also met with Leblanc. Kusugak was out of town late last week and could not be reached by xxxNews/North. However, Kusugak's executive assistant said NTI did not want to comment on the crash until a report on the matter is released.

That report into the crash won't be released for another 12 to 18 months, said Lt. Col. Dick Adam, Canadian Armed Forces chief public affairs officer in Winnipeg.

"It's going to be quite some time before we get anything finalized," Adam said, adding that details established at this point are confidential.

When the investigation is completed officials will review what went wrong in order to prevent a reoccurrence, Adam said.

The CF-18 fighter jet crashed during takeoff in Iqaluit Aug. 14. It was on a NORAD training exercise with five other jets from CFB Bagotville, Que.

The pilot, 28-year-old Capt. Ken Welch of Alberta, ejected safely from the cockpit seconds before the jet ploughed through the runway fence and over airport fuel lines, where it went up in flames.