Deteriorating weather, insufficient student supervision led to fatal collision with terrain of a helicopter in November 2018
Dorval, Quebec, 20 January 2020 — In its investigation report (A18Q0186) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that insufficient supervision of a solo training flight and deteriorating weather conditions led to the fatal November 2018 collision with terrain of a helicopter near Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec.
On the morning of 19 November 2018, a student pilot was on a solo flight from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, to Mirabel Hélico heliport, Quebec, in his privately owned Eurocopter EC-120B helicopter. His flight instructor was expecting him to arrive at 13:00 local time. Noting that the helicopter was overdue and not having received any communications, the instructor informed search and rescue authorities. The following day, the helicopter was found in a wooded area on a hillside near Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. The helicopter was substantially damaged, and the student pilot was fatally injured. There had been no post-impact fire.
The investigation found that the solo flight was authorized despite the weather not meeting the minimum acceptable conditions stipulated in the flight-training program, and that the supervision of the solo flight was inadequate, because updates on weather conditions, which included possible icing conditions, were not obtained. It is therefore highly likely that the student pilot encountered unfavourable weather conditions that forced him to fly at a very low altitude to maintain visual reference to the ground.
The solo training flight appears to have been planned without taking account of the student pilot’s actual skill and experience. The student pilot had 7.5 hours of solo flying experience, all within the vicinity of Rouyn-Noranda. The planned cross-country flight, however, would have taken the student pilot over unfamiliar, inhospitable terrain as well as into weather conditions that did not meet the flight training program’s criteria. If solo flights are allowed without considering the criteria of the flight-training program, the trainee’s proficiency level for the forecast weather conditions, and the difficulties along the flight route, there is a risk that trainees may find themselves in a situation that is beyond their abilities. Additionally, planning flights when icing conditions are forecasted in a helicopter that is not certified to fly under those conditions may have a negative impact on safety.
The student pilot was receiving flight training from a freelance flight instructor. Canadian regulations currently allow a person who does not hold a flight training unit operator certificate to operate a flight-training service in certain cases, such as when the trainee is the owner of the aircraft used for training. However, Transport Canada (TC) does not include freelance instructors in its oversight activities. If TC does not include freelance instructors in its oversight activities, there is a risk that poor practices and regulatory infractions could go undetected and corrected.
See the investigation page for more information.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
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