This report responds to the Harper government's continued openness to the F-35 as a replacement for Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets. With the exception of the F-35, all the aircraft currently under consideration have two engines. this difference has significant safety implications, particularly for pilots operating over Canada’s Arctic and vast maritime zones.
According to the report, decision to purchase a single-engine fighter would almost inevitably result in the needless loss of Canadian pilots. The number of accidents leading to the loss of a pilot and/or aircraft remains significantly higher for single-engine fighter jets than for twin-engine fighter jets. The risks associated with a single-engine aircraft are compounded by Canada’s challenging geography – including the remote Arctic and the world’s longest coastline – as well as a near-broken search-and-rescue system.
Michael Byers is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. He recently won the $50,000 Donner Prize for his book International Law and the Arctic.