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Multiple issues caused Fort Smith crash: TSB
Ill pilot and damaged wing included as factors in fatal 2013 plane incident

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 12, 2015

An increasingly ill pilot and an aircraft wing damaged in a previous landing contributed to a 2013 fatal float plane crash in the NWT, an investigation into the incident has found.

NNSL photo/graphic

A float plane crashed into an unnamed lake south of Ivanhoe Lake on Aug. 22, 2013, killing the pilot on board. The wreckage was submerged in about six feet of water. - photo courtesy of Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued the report on Jan. 8, outlining the Aug. 22, 2013, crash into an unnamed lake east of Fort Smith that killed a pilot, who was the only person in the aircraft.

The float-equipped Transwest Air turbine-powered Otter went down on a flight from Scott Lake, just north of the NWT/Saskatchewan border, to Ivanhoe Lake, approximately 80 km northwest of Stony Rapids, Sask.

While landing on the previous flight to Scott Lake, the right wing of the aircraft was damaged by hitting several trees. However, the damage was not evaluated by qualified personnel prior to the subsequent takeoff for Ivanhoe Lake.

The TSB investigation determined the pilot lost control of the damaged aircraft likely due to interference on the right aileron – the hinged and moveable airfoil on the back edge of a wing – caused by parts of the failing wingtip acting under air loads.

The report also detailed the pilot's state of health prior to the crash.

It noted he and another pilot had experienced stomach cramps and were feeling unwell in the morning, after sharing a meal the previous night.

"Transwest's policy provided that, if pilots feel unfit to fly due to illness, they are expected to contact the base manager, chief pilot or director of flight operations and remove themselves from flight duty," the report stated. "The pilot would still be paid for a sick day. There is no indication that the occurrence pilot attempted to call in sick."

The aircraft had departed a water base in Stony Rapids, Sask., on the morning of the crash with an itinerary of about 15 flights.

The report stated the investigation revealed a number of "stressors" throughout the day disrupted the pilot's processing of information critical for the safe operation of the plane, and likely contributed to an unsafe decision to depart and operate a damaged, uninspected aircraft.

The pilot had encountered operational problems prior to the crash, such as wind making it difficult to manoeuvre the aircraft to docks and loading points, a damaged water rudder that was repaired, and getting stuck on sandbars.

The report noted the pilot was normally described as happy and relaxed, although throughout the day of the accident, he appeared increasingly agitated, withdrawn and short-tempered.

Plus, he was also characterized as normally being capable, careful and reluctant to take unnecessary risks.

The plane's wreckage was located on Aug. 23.

The body of the pilot was not recovered until Aug. 29 by an RCMP dive team from Regina.

To enhance safety in its operations following the accident, Transwest Air Limited, which is headquartered in Prince Albert, Sask., held discussions with its pilots concerning their responsibilities to remove themselves from flight duty if they do not feel fit to fly.

A safety directive was also issued outlining Transwest Air's expectation of compliance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations, and action to be taken in the event an aircraft is damaged.

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