Despite lost engines, novice pilots, wandering wildlife, misunderstood instructions and worn or malfunctioning equipment, nobody died and only two people were injured in Nova Scotia airspace during 2016.
Among the 235 incident reports filed this year with Transport Canada, most related to pilots who aborted a landing due to wind shear, which is wind that blows at a dramatically different speed or direction at different altitudes.
The sudden change affects the lift under plane wings, but despite the difficulty, the pilot came around and landed successfully, usually on the second attempt.
Twice, pilots altered their landing after spotting raccoons — and once a skunk — wandering across a Halifax runway.
Then there were the birds, which collided with planes 35 times over the province.
They included crows, snow buntings, one kestrel, a plover and another that might have been an owl.
The rest were not identified.
Airport crews search runways for bird carcasses after the strikes, but most often the birds fall elsewhere.
Particularly during the summer and early fall, cockpit crews heard a spate of emergency beacon signals that turned out to be false.
In most cases, technicians were working on the devices. In one instance, it was left on accidentally.
In January, while practising in Debert, a student pilot ran into trouble.
“When power was added for takeoff, the aircraft contacted an icy patch and slid into a snow bank. The aircraft overturned and was substantially damaged; there were no injuries,” stated the report.
In March, a Terence Bay man reported seeing a plane on fire crash into the ocean, but searchers did not find anything.
The Transport Canada file is still open.
American-registered planes arrived in the province twice during the year without “an active trans-border flight plan” — once in Yarmouth and once in Port Hawkesbury.
There was no word on charges.
Twice, pilots saw something that looked like a weather balloon drifting through their flight path.
Some of the incidents were harrowing.
Unidentified persons attacked pilots with a laser-pointer three times, prompting ongoing police investigations.
Department of National Defence aircraft twice declared an emergency due to a lost engine, as did Porter Airlines once, and the American Air Force another time.
In one of the DND incidents, “the pilot of the . . . Lockheed C-130 Hercules from Greenwood, N.S. to Charlottetown, P.E.I. indicated they had one engine out and declared an emergency,” states the report. “38,000 lbs of fuel at time of declaration and 9 souls on board.”
The pilot returned to Greenwood and landed successfully.
May 2, as a Piper PA-28R-180 was preparing to land in Debert, “the landing gear was inadvertently left in the retracted position and the aircraft landed with the gear up,” stated the incident report.
“The aircraft came to rest on the runway and sustained minor damage to its propeller and belly. There were no injuries to the pilot and passenger and no post-impact fire.”
In August, a DND Cormorant flying from Greenwood, N.S. to Saint John, N.B. “reported hydraulic problems and conducted an emergency landing in a field,” according to the Transport Canada report.
Occasionally, communication broke down between pilots and the control tower, even after the pilot read back the instructions, as in a flight from Halifax to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The air traffic controller instructed the pilot to turn left, but the pilot turned right, heading into the path of a second plane that had been cleared to land.
“Controller detected turn error immediately and stopped turn at heading 180 until above traffic and then cleared TSC366 on course,” states the report.
“There was no loss of separation.”
In August, a plane landed at the Sydney airport without authorization.
It later turned out that the pilot had the plane’s radio on the wrong frequency.