Tuesday, February 17, 2015

British Columbia aircraft accidents and deaths reach ‘all-time low’: Three fatalities in 2014 is far below the five-year average of nine deaths

The number of aircraft accidents and fatalities has reached a record low in B.C. — one of the most challenging areas of the country for aviators.

The board recorded a total of 30 aircraft accidents in 2014, two of which resulted in three fatalities in B.C. That compares with a five-year annual average of 51 accidents, nine of which resulted in 15 deaths.

Bill Yearwood, regional manager for the federal transportation safety board, said from Richmond he believes that the latest figures represent an “all-time low” and hope they are grounds for optimism for the future. “We’re encouraged and hope this is a trend, not an anomaly.”

An aircraft accident involves severe injury, death or damage to an aircraft that requires repairs before being deemed airworthy.

Although there is no one obvious reason behind the decline in accidents, Yearwood cited several potential contributing factors: an increase in professionalism, especially in small and mid-sized commercial operations; higher fuel prices resulting in less flying by private enthusiasts; implementation of “safety management systems” for larger operations; and the news media reporting more on aircraft accidents.

“There’s a lot more awareness and that has an impact,” Yearwood said in an interview.

Aircraft accidents also continue to decline across Canada: 251 in 2014, of which 14 resulted in 21 deaths. That compares with a five-year annual average of 282 accidents, including 37 that caused 67 deaths.

The trend is especially encouraging in B.C., where the mountainous terrain tends to result in worse crashes with a greater chance of deaths.

Martin Eley, director-general of civil aviation for Transport Canada, said his department is looking at making safety management systems compulsory also for smaller commercial air operations. These systems are a documented method of managing risks, covering operations, technical systems, financial and human resources aspects of aviation. “In a lot of cases, it’s a culture change,” he said. “We are seeing benefits.”

A safety board investigation into the Aug. 16, 2013, crash of a Nootka Air de Havilland Beaver at Hesquiat Peninsula cited pilot error, but also noted the company did not have a safety management system nor was it required to have one. The pilot and one of five passengers died.

Eley added that he does not believe that the total amount of flying has decreased, especially commercial. “There are ups and downs, but everything we see tells us that aviation continues to grow for the most part.”

Said Yearwood: “Any safety management system is only as good as how well it is implemented, and the buy-in from every employee. You can’t just take something off the shelf and make it work. Every employee has to understand risk management.”

B.C.’s two fatal crashes in 2014 involved the death of the pilot and passenger in the July 26 crash shortly after takeoff from Nanaimo Airport of a homebuilt Avid amphibian plane, and the death of a passenger in the Aug. 30 crash of a private Cessna 172 during landing on a strip at Crawford Bay north of Creston.

The board performed a full investigation into just one accident, the Aug. 14 crash of a Conair Air Tractor collecting water during firefighting duties near Pink Mountain in northeast B.C. The plane sank but the pilot survived thanks to a crash cage, restraints, helmet and life vest.

Story and photo:  http://www.vancouversun.com


A pilot and passenger survived the crash of an Air Nootka float plane into forest on the Hesquiat Peninsula in 2013 but died from a post-crash fire, a federal transportation safety board report found.

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