Crash of small jet in Kelowna, reminder of need for black boxes: TSB

Board urges use of cockpit voice and flight data recorders on smaller planes after crash

KELOWNA, B.C. – The Transportation Safety Board renewed its call Monday for flight data or cockpit voice recorders to be carried on smaller planes after a jet crash last week in B.C. killed four people including former Alberta premier Jim Prentice.

Without the recorders, the board said the investigation into the crash Thursday near Kelowna of the Cessna Citation will be “particularly challenging,” adding that it first recommended the devices in 1991.

“This latest accident is another reminder of how important these recorders are,” Kathy Fox, the board’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “If we are to get to the underlying causes of these tragic accidents, Transport Canada and the aviation industry need to take immediate action to address this outstanding safety issue.”

The plane involved in the crash, owned by Norjet Inc., was not equipped with voice or data recorders. It was not required to carry the devices.

Only multi-engine, turbine-powered commercial aircraft flown by two pilots and carrying six or more passengers are required to carry a cockpit voice recorder, the safety board says.

The board first called for the recorders on smaller planes after it investigated the fatal crash of an air ambulance in northern Ontario in 1988.

It says since then, the aviation industry has developed lightweight flight recording systems that can be installed in smaller aircraft “at a low cost.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in an interview Monday that he has asked his staff to come back to him with some proposals on regulations for cockpit voice recorders for smaller planes.

“The truth of the matter is voice recorders and black boxes were very expensive devices,” he said.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to look at the new technologies which are available and that are less expensive and to look at it from that point of view, because obviously whenever we have the information that precedes a possible incident that’s useful.”

He couldn’t specify what changes would be made, saying only that it would likely involve a range of aircraft and would be in line with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the United States.

A statement from Transport Canada said the aircraft involved in Thursday’s accident was not required to have a voice recorder because it was certified to be flown by a single pilot.

“In single pilot operations, there are no cockpit conversations to be recorded, so the decision to install a cockpit voice recorder is currently at the pilot’s discretion,” it said.

Safety board spokesman Bill Yearwood said there were four investigators at the crash site Monday, documenting the wreckage and collecting pieces for further examination.

But finding a definitive cause without data from an in-flight recorder will be challenging, he said.

Investigators have information from systems on the ground, such as radar, but that doesn’t give a full picture of what happened, Yearwood said.

“That information won’t tell us exactly what was causing the aircraft to do what it was doing. … These recording devices do the job of a live witness when we have a tragic event like this.”

No emergency calls or signals were made before the crash, the board has said. The plane crashed shortly after leaving the airport in Kelowna en route to Springbank, outside of Calgary.

In the House of Commons, MPs paid tribute to Prentice on Monday, some sharing tearful memories of a man they worked with when he was in the federal cabinet.

“He was a true gentleman politician â€” kind and possessing a love of public policy and public service,” said Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who choked back tears as she spoke of her cabinet colleague.

Optometrist Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of one of Prentice’s three daughters, was another victim of the plane crash. Jim Kruk, a retired RCMP officer and aviation enthusiast, was identified as the pilot. Media reports have said the fourth victim was Calgary businessman Sheldon Reid.

The Canadian Press

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