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TSB wants better screening for heart conditions in pilots in wake of Alberta crash

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March 14, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety Airline Safety Heart Attack pilot

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Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is calling for better screening for heart conditions for pilots.

Since 2000, the agency has investigated eight accidents involving commercial pilots in which cardiovascular disease was identified as an issue, it said.

It is asking Transport Canada to establish a framework for routine and review, and improvements to the Handbook for Civil Aviation Medical Examiners, to ensure it “contains the most effective screening tools for assessing medical conditions such as cardiovascular health issues.”

That would, in turn, reduce the likelihood of pilots becoming incapacitated while operating an aircraft, it said.

The recommendations came in the wake of the investigation into a recent crash in Alberta. In that incident, an amateur-built Cavalier SA102.5 aircraft entered into an aerodynamic stall and collided with terrain in Lacombe, Alta., on Oct. 9, 2021. The pilot was killed.


“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Alberta reported that the cause of death was attributed to blunt force trauma, with cardiovascular disease as a significant contributing factor,” the TSB said. “The report also noted that the pilot had evidence of a heart attack, although it was not possible to determine the exact time of this event.”

Following a crash in Miramichi, N.B., in 2010, the TSB issued a safety concern indicating that medical practitioners may not always be aware of the need or importance of transmitting reportable medical conditions and, further, that deficiencies exist in the guidelines designed to screen for cardiovascular risks.

“If Transport Canada guidance material and the civil aviation medical examination report do not include up-to-date cardiovascular screening methods to perform a global cardiovascular assessment when appropriate, there is an increased risk that cardiovascular disease will remain unidentified and pilots may become incapacitated while operating an aircraft,” it said.


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