A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says a fatal plane crash last fall in Sundridge, Ont., was likely caused by problems during landing.
Two pilots — Susan Begg, 73, of Ottawa, and Dewi Livingston, 45, of Niagara on the Lake — were killed Sept. 16, 2021, while in a Mooney M20J aircraft.
They were taking part in the Gold Cup Air Rally at the Sundridge South River Airpark. The rally is an annual event held by the Canadian Nine-Nines, a group dedicated to promoting female pilots.
Each team consisted of two female pilots, who were to land at the Sundridge airpark from different starting points in Ontario.
In its report, the TSB said the crash was likely caused by an “unstable approach,” which is an attempt by a plane to land that doesn’t meet safety requirements.
Witnesses of the crash said the plane’s airspeed and rate of descent were faster than a normal approach for that type of airplane.
The plane bounced three times before the pilot tried to abort the landing. The plane then slowly climbed at the end of the runway, moving slowly upward before crashing into a wooded area about 1,300 feet from the end of the runway.
“During the latter stages of the approach, when the aircraft’s nose-down pitch attitude reportedly increased, the aircraft’s rate of descent and airspeed likely increased as well, and the approach likely became unstable,” the report said.
“However, the recorded data available to the investigation were insufficient to accurately determine the aircraft’s speed and rate of descent during the occurrence sequence. During the flare, the aircraft ballooned and bounced three times before a go-around was initiated.”
A ‘go-around’ is what a pilot does when they realize their approach to the runway is unstable, aborting the landing attempt to go around and try again.
The crash took place around 2:47 p.m. and police responded at 3 p.m. and a search was conducted for the aircraft. The crash site was located at 4:37 p.m. by a military helicopter that was diverted from Quebec.
“Both occupants were found wearing their safety belts with shoulder harnesses,” the report said.
“The passenger was fatally injured. The pilot received critical injuries and was transported to hospital by air ambulance but died before arrival at the hospital.”
What is unclear, the report said, is whether the plane went down because of a lack of speed, or whether it struck a tree or another obstacle as the pilot attempted to abort the landing.
“The on-site examination of the accident site determined that the right wing initially impacted a large tree and a large portion of the wing separated from the aircraft,” the report said.
“The damage to the right wing leading edge indicated a slightly nose-up attitude with the wings nearly level. The aircraft subsequently rolled to the right and struck other trees before impacting the ground in an almost completely inverted position. There was no post-impact fire.”
In many cases, the report said pilots will sometimes try to slow their approach by reducing “the pitch attitude and angle of attack too rapidly.
“This tendency not only stops the aircraft’s descent, but actually causes it to start climbing,” the report said.
“Trying to salvage the landing increases the risk of the aircraft contacting the runway in an undesired attitude and causing it to bounce back into the air.”
The report said trying to abort the landing – the go-around – is only effective if the pilot decides to complete the manoeuvre in a timely fashion.
“(A) go-around can become a very risky flight procedure if the pilot does not decide soon enough that a go-around is the best choice and delays making a decision until the situation has become critical.”
Read the full report here.
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