RICHMOND, B.C. – Gusty crosswinds and poor decision-making by the pilot are blamed for causing the hard landing of a float plane on British Columbia’s north coast that seriously injured one person.
A Transportation Safety Board report identifies those two factors in its examination of the May 2016 accident at Kitkatla, southwest of Prince Rupert, and it says some of its previous warnings could also apply in this probe.
The report says the pilot and six passengers were aboard the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane when the pilot tried to land in a crosswind and came down on the left float with enough force to bounce the plane back into the air.
The right float then collapsed after hitting the water, and the plane flipped upside down, although all seven people, including the badly injured victim, managed to climb out as it began to sink.
The safety board report says the decision to carry out a water landing in gusty crosswinds, when lower-risk options were available, placed the aircraft occupants at greater risk of an accident.
It also says four of the ten most frequently cited factors in seaplane crashes applied to the Kitkatla crash, including piloting skills, wind conditions and aircraft control.
The TSB report finds Inland Air had voluntarily implemented a safety management system but there were no formal processes for assessing hazards or risks such as the crosswind conditions associated with the hard landing.
“Approximately 90 per cent of all Canadian aviation certificate holders are currently not required by regulation to have a (safety management system),” the board says, although it points to a previous recommendation urging Transport Canada to make such systems mandatory for all commercial air operators in Canada.
The report faults the safety briefing given to the passengers before take-off, noting critical information such as the location of exits was not provided and the pilot did not confirm each passenger’s role in the event of an emergency.
In addition, none of the passengers was wearing a personal flotation device, which regulations do not require, but the board has long been on record as calling for use of life jackets.
“If pilots and passengers are not required to wear suitable PFDs, as called for in the outstanding TSB recommendation … , they are at increased risk of drowning once they have escaped the aircraft, the report concludes.