By Scott Taylor
For the past couple of weeks, there has been a steady stream of stories leaking out about a bizarre party flight aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Airbus.
The first hint of this came with the announcement late in the afternoon on Friday, February 9, that military police had laid charges of sexual assault and assault against former NHL hockey player Dave (aka Tiger) Williams.
The scant background information released at the time simply stated that Williams had been part of a troupe of VIPs partaking in a morale-boosting junket to visit a ship’s crew in Greece and the Canadian Army contingent in Latvia. So far, no biggie.
Then began a series of anonymous tips to the media from military personnel who were first-hand eyewitnesses to these events.
Turns out that Williams’ alleged actions were only one tiny aspect of an absolute gong show gone wild.
First it was revealed that, on the flight in question, many of the VIP passengers were inebriated before they even boarded the plane, with one passenger at least bringing aboard his own 40 oz. bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label Scotch.
Two of the partiers became so inebriated that they urinated themselves. Disgusted military stewards working the flight had to put the soiled seat cushions into plastic bags to be cleaned upon the CC-150 Airbus’ eventual return to CFB Trenton.
In response to the details being made public, DND tried to spin this as a possible policy oversight, but reminded the media that this type of flight is similar to commercial airlines serving alcohol on long flights. It was also acknowledged that there were only around 20 VIPs aboard the Airbus, plus flight crew, on a plane that can seat up to 194 passengers.
Further leaks revealed that, prior to the return flight, Williams’s accuser and three of her fellow military stewards were removed from the flight crew and flown home on a commercial flight. These last-minute one-way tickets cost Canadian taxpayers $6,500 each, for a whopping total of $26,000.
DND’s rationale for authorizing this expense was to separate Williams from his accuser, but no one could explain why it would not have been simpler — and cheaper — to simply fly Williams home on his own.
Questions asked about the identities of the other VIPs aboard were stonewalled by the DND spokesperson. However, this being the era of social media, it did not take long for a video taken during the flight to surface on Facebook.
Toronto businessman Rick Ekstein was part of that welfare-boosting trip and he posted his video “Rocking our way across the Atlantic” on his page.
And rocking they were! The footage shows the Airbus cabin rigged up with amplifiers in the aisle, with the rock band Carpet Frogs belting out a raucous version of the Doobie Brothers’ 1973 hit China Grove. About a dozen onlookers are drinking booze and bobbing to the beat while stage lights turn the cabin from blue to purple to green.
Once again, DND said they would look into possible policy oversights that might have violated air safety regulations.
Given that you cannot place so much as a handbag in the emergency exit row of a commercial flight, I’m going to guess that setting up guitar amps in the aisle is against a whole number of regulations.
Then, last Friday, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Jonathan Vance issued this statement: “The commander of the RCAF and I are deeply concerned and disappointed about what is said to have transpired aboard this service flight, and we will sponsor the necessary changes to prevent reoccurrence.”
The kicker to all of this is that Vice Chief of Defence Staff LGen Alain Parent was aboard the flight at the time of the party, as was Canadian Armed Forces Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West.
Given the booming rock music, the flashing lights and the stench of fresh urine, it would have been impossible for Parent and West to hear no evil, see no evil or smell no evil.
As a result of their wilful blindness to the events transpiring around them, a service woman was reportedly sexually assaulted.
Vance does not need an extensive investigation and a full review of RCAF policies to act upon his disappointment. He needs to hold senior leaders like Parent and West accountable. They were on the plane. They are responsible.