Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not Again!

Damn, it just happened again.

Yesterday morning I almost skipped over this article in my news aggregator, thinking that either Google's spider or a Montana radio station had dredged up some old news. I blogged about the accident, because I'd been on one of the company's airplanes at the time it happened. A Grumman Goose crashed and burned on the BC coast while a single survivor made it out of the wreckage. I clicked through on this one in the hopes that it would point to a preliminary TSB report, but to my horror I learned that there was another such crash yesterday, for the same company.

This is a company with a good record and a cautious company culture. The pilot concerned was a long time employee and very experienced in type and terrain. What happened? Every accident is a unique set of circumstances, but human brains seek patterns, that's how we see and find food and make sense of our world. Two in four months is an awful pattern. The same type, the same subculture within the company, the same maintenance personnel, the same parts, is there a link? I'm sure the TSB will look for one.

This article has more details, and this one has a picture.

I am so sorry to hear this. It's a terrible thing to happen to those aboard, their families, and this company.


dpierce said...

Very sad. It is amazing how one person can lose their life while the person seated next to him can be fit enough to hike cross-country for two hours.

There was an awful lot of associative pattern rationalization undertaken by the media following the recent string of Qantas incidents.

nicnacjak said...

I heard this story on Seattle local news a few days ago. You know it is a big deal when the story crosses the border. My hart goes out to the families affected by the crash and I hope that the appropriate CA authorities can quickly discover the likely cause of these tragedies.

I am also relieved that our blogging Aviatrix was not involved in this accident. Stay save out there Aviatrix!

Scott Johnson said...

Unfortunately, it's rare for CFIT to be the result of anything other than pilot error. It's far too early to draw any conclusions, but it seems likely from the information in the articles that the pilot inadvertently flew into fog, attempted a turn to get back to VFR conditions, and encountered cumulus lithos.

I don't know anything about the company, but I hope this is just a cruel coincidence and not a pattern at all. It does happen.

nec Timide said...

Reading the articles I'm reminded of a flight I was on from Prince Rupert to Masset over 30 years ago on a Grumman Mallard. The first day the crew flew us between 50 and 200 feet above the Dixon Entrance to somewhere North of Rose Point, then began sweeping South looking for the Island. They were unable to visually identify the island before crossing a fixed line of position (I can't remember if it was VOR, DME or NDB/NDB) so we went back and tried again the next day.

During my stay on the island it was quite common, while standing on the dunes near where the airport is today, to be able to look down on the planes flying along the beach from Rose Point to Masset Inlet.

The risks flying in this way are more numerous than in good VFR weather or by filing IFR, but can be mitigated by the very best situational awareness. Of course it must be understood that the BC coast doesn't get good VFR weather a lot of the time, and the places these planes serve don't appear on IFR charts.

One of the comments to the CBC article suggested terrain warning technology may have prevented this accident. And it may well have. That assumes that the pilot could and would have done something different had the proximity of terrain been known. The Cory Lidle crash shows how quickly maneuvering room gets eaten up.

Very sad. It is an extremely difficult market to make a living in safely. There are many communities that depend on those airplanes.

Anonymous said...

@Scott Johnson:

When experienced pilots with local knowledge and good equipment die due to CFIT, 'pilot error' seems to be a risky oversimplification. There are definite limits to human performance and if experienced pilots keep dying in these circumstances then then their is a good probability that the real problem isn't pilot error but rather that pilots are being asked/expected to do things that are no human could do at an acceptable level of risk. If industry practices require super human skill on behalf of pilots to ensure safe operations, then the problem is industry practices, not pilots.

Maybe nobody should be flying VFR around the BC coast when there is a non-trivial risk of flying into IMC. If that means curtailing some operations in the winter, equipping GA aircraft with FLIR, or expanding IFR chart coverage, then those options should be looked at seriously.

Anonymous said...

The pic is horrible

Anonymous said...

The pic is misleading.
Two bits of bright wreckage and a burnt patch are evocative and that's why they used the pic. But the wreckage was spread over a larger area so those are NOT all that's left of an aircraft and eight people.


PS the CAPCHA word you have to type includes a letter I've never seen before, a backwards D with a dot over it. Only in this blog...