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First Air flight 6560 pilots had tried to abort landing

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 9, 2012

Crash investigators say First Air flight 6560 pilots tried to abort the landing two seconds before crashing into a hill east of the Resolute airport runway Aug. 20.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB), which is still in phase two of a three-phase investigation, released the findings in a Jan. 5 progress report.

With the landing gear down and locked, flight speed at 157 knots, and the final landing checklist compete, pilots called off the landing just before crashing.

Investigator-in-charge Brian MacDonald said determination of what actually caused the crash "will be some months ahead of us."

While not speculating on whether this was the first moment the crew saw the hill, the report states crew required the help of instruments to land. Visibility dropped to 8 km (5 miles) with a 90 m (300 foot) ceiling shortly after the crash, from 16 km (10 miles) and 200 m (700 feet) 40 minutes before the crash

Visibility was low enough to require the pilots to rely on Resolute's instrument landing system, which provides guidance to 0.8 km (0.5 miles) visibility with a 60 m (200 foot) ceiling - circumstances where pilots are expected to be able to land independently. Another plane successfully used the same method to land 20 minutes after the crash, the report says. The instrument landing system was working, Navigation Canada told investigators.

There were no pre-impact problems, the report says, and the engines were working well. Investigators continue to analyze the plane's flight and navigational instruments.

While Resolute airport does not normally have air traffic controllers, the Canadian Forces had set up a temporary military control zone at the airport to accommodate increased air traffic during Operation Nanook, the sovereignty exercise taking place in the hamlet that week. As a result, investigators are able to use the military's radar information to help their analysis. MacDonald said the investigation team briefed the mayor and council of Resolute, as well as the Polar Continental Shelf Program, on who they were and what they were doing.

"They seemed to be pleased that we took the time to talk to them," said MacDonald, a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot with 23 years experience, who has worked as an air accident investigator for 15 years, including eight with the TSB.

"I personally have never been exposed to any other investigation of this size or nature, but we made the decision - somewhat, probably, because of the size of the community and the impact locally - to speak to those two organizations."

Going forward, the report states his team will try to determine if there was a navigation failure, and how the creation of the military control zone affected the co-ordination and operation of the airspace between civilian and military agencies.

  • with files from Laura Busch

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