Snow, cold hamper Air Tindi investigation; community sends its condolences

The downed plane was a King Air 200. (Photo courtesy of Air Tindi).

While it’s still too early to say exactly what caused the Air Tindi crash last week, conditions have certainly played a role in the investigation.

The meter and a half of snow and extreme cold has made processing the accident site “quite difficult,” says Jonathan Lee, the western regional manager for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

TSB investigators were searching for two key pieces of equipment—the cockpit voice recorder and a satellite tracking unit—but have yet to find them.

While Air Tindi lost contact with the flight Wednesday morning, the aircraft wasn’t located until the early evening.

Electronic locator transmitters (ELT) are devices that would emit a signal to help locate a downed aircraft.

CKLB asked about its use in the search and Lee said there was a brief signal before it went out, which could have resulted from the impact.

“We’re always interested in survivability and the ELT is a key piece of information,” said Lee. “I can’t comment on it now because we haven’t found it yet.”

Pilot information

Will Hayworth, 36, and Zach McKillop, 28, were the two pilots who lost their lives in the crash.

Lee said the TSB has also started collecting information from Air Tindi including operational procedures and maintenance, as well as information on the pilots.

“We’ll request as much information that we can about what we call the 72-hour history,” said Lee. That includes the pilots’ work/rest schedule, training, health and even if they were on any medication that could affect their ability to fly.

“Then we start eliminating the items that are non-contributory.”

Community response

Whatì elder Isadore Zoe said hearing about the crash “really hurt us because we’re part of the family.”

Zoe was explaining the important of these kinds of charter flights to fly-in communities like Whatì in a conversation with CKLB’s Denendeh Sunrise host Josh Campbell.

According to Zoe, the plane circled twice but the conditions prevented it from landing in the community so it went back towards Behchoko.

He added there was a quick response from the local Rangers.

“(They) got together and they dashed out,” he said. “They came back and said, ‘We didn’t see a trace, nothing, no marks’.”

Zoe said the community sends its condolences to the pilots’ families and that “it’s slowly, slowly getting over the tragedy.”

Working backwards

CKLB asked Lee if the plane returning to Behchoko was a possibility based on the site.

“Anything’s plausible,” he said and explained the aircraft was captured on Nav Canada radar. Once TSB received the files, he said, it would help clear up the flight path.

CKLB also asked about the crash being due to a CFIT, or controlled flight into terrain, essentially when pilots unintentionally fly into the ground or an obstacle.

“Given the energy state of the aircraft and how it was broken up, one may argue that that’s not a good definition of being under control,” said Lee. “I wouldn’t be prepared to it’s a CFIT that’s for sure,” he added but didn’t rule out the possibility.

Lee explained the investigation is a slow process, especially considering investigators may not recover important parts until spring.

“It’s like looking through a very tiny hole in a fence and you’re trying to get a better picture of what’s beyond the fence… as we collect more data an analyze it, we get a better, clearer picture.”

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