Wind, heat, weight all contributed to fatal B.C. plane crash say investigators
By The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – The Transportation Safety Board says no single factor led to the crash of a small plane that killed the pilot and slightly injured three passengers during a sight-seeing flight last year just north of Vancouver.
The unnamed pilot, who had more than 1,200 hours of flying time, died when his single-engine Piper Cherokee crashed into trees along the Sunshine Coast during a hot and gusty afternoon on July 5. The passengers, an adult, a teenager and a four-year-old boy who were the pilot’s relatives, all survived.
The board’s accident report says the plane’s airspeed began to drop as soon as it lifted off and it wobbled before clipping trees less than 30 seconds later, crashing after crossing Chapman Creek at the far end of the runway.
Investigators say a tailwind at takeoff, a slight uphill slope of the runway and the aircraft at or near its maximum gross weight all played a role.
They also found the hot weather affected air density, making the engine work much harder to lift the heavy plane.
The TSB report notes that “local pilots report turbulence and downdrafts are common” over the creek, but it says the aviation document in effect for the Sechelt Aerodrome at the time of the accident is not required to note that detail and did not contain it.
“A pilot who had landed an hour before the accident experienced turbulence and downdrafts over Chapman Creek that were so severe that he radioed to warn another aircraft that was inbound for landing,” the report states.
Those conditions “may have further decreased the aircraft’s climb performance,” but the report says there are no warning signs at the aerodrome.
It concludes with a one-sentence safety message, advising that “pilots must remain vigilant to changes in the factors that can affect the performance of their aircraft.”
The report is described as a “limited-scope, fact-gathering investigation … to advance transportation safety through greater awareness of potential safety issues,” and does not “assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.”