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


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 in B.C. last week that killed four people including former Alberta premier Jim Prentice.

Without the recorders, the board says the investigation into the crash last Thursday near Kelowna of the Cessna Citation jet will be “particularly challenging.”

“As early as 1991, the board made a recommendation calling for the upgrade of flight recorder requirements,” Kathy Fox, the board’s chairwoman, said in a statement.

“This latest accident is another reminder of how important these recorders are. 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.

In its statement on Monday, the safety board says since it made the recommendation in 1991, the aviation industry has developed lightweight flight recording systems that can be installed in smaller aircraft “at a low cost.”

“These flight recording systems could be used by accident investigators to identify safety deficiencies and reduce risk in a timely manner.”

In an email on Monday, Transport Canada said it is bringing forward new regulations on cockpit voice recorders for the minister to review in coming months to bring Canada in line with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the United States. It did not elaborate on what those regulatory changes will be.

It said the aircraft involved in Thursday’s accident was not required to have a cockpit 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.

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 — 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. “That was true, whether he was in opposition or on the government benches in this House or, of course, working for the people of Alberta as the province’s 16th premier.”

Prentice, 60, was on board the small jet that went down Thursday night shortly after it left the airport in Kelowna en route to the Springbank airport, outside of Calgary.

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 Transportation Safety Board has said the plane disappeared from radar shortly after it took off. No emergency calls or signals were made before the crash.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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