Friday, August 16, 2013

No need for more communication regulations: Saskatchewan pilots - Response follows Transportation Safety Board report into St. Brieux crash

Saskatchewan pilots don’t see the need for increased communication rules in the province despite a deadly two plane crash last year.

The two planes crashed mid-air near St. Brieux killing all five people aboard the two aircraft including 11-year-old Wade Donovan.

A report by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said the two planes likely didn’t see each other until it was too late. Both aircrafts were flying under visual flight rules – meaning they were relying on sight alone to spot other aircraft – but their positions would have made it difficult to see each other.

The report said both planes were seen on air traffic control but they weren’t required to communicate.

Planes are only required to communicate with air traffic control if they are flying above 12,500 feet, according to Regina Flying Club spokesperson Tom Ray. The two planes were flying at 4,500 feet.

“Not only are they not reachable by radar at those low levels when they’re out there’s no requirement either,” Ray said.

However, despite the fact that roughly 90 per cent of Saskatchewan is uncontrolled airspace, Ray doesn’t think panic or mandatory radar coverage and communication are necessary.

“The incident that did happen is so extremely rare and unfortunate but there just isn’t enough traffic in Saskatchewan to worry about radar coverage,” he said.

The TSB recorded 17 mid-air collisions in Canada over the past decade. Eight involved formation flying, three were in practice training areas and six were in uncontrolled air space like the St. Brieux accident.

Globally most collisions occur during takeoff and landing where the concentration of planes is much higher.

In Canada planes that carry at least 15 passengers must have collision avoidance systems. Both planes were smaller but were equipped with passive collision avoidance systems. Investigators could not determine whether they were on or working at the time of the crash.

Ray said the best safety procedure for pilots is to see and be seen.

“See and be seen,” he said. “There’s nobody to talk to out there, there’s nobody that’s going to give your position off radar. It’s just you have to keep a good look out.”