Whiteout conditions, confusion led to Waskada plane crash

Poor weather conditions and pilot error caused a Cessna crash that killed four people near Waskada, Man., in 2013, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says.
Logan (front) and Gage Spence, along with their father, Darren, and another child were killed in a plane crash near Waskada, Man., on Feb. 10, 2013. (Facebook)

Poor weather conditions and pilot error caused a Cessna crash that killed four people near Waskada, Man., in 2013, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says.

Dawson Pentecost, 9, was one of four people who died when a Cessna crashed in a field near the southwestern Manitoba village of Waskada in February 2013. (Family photo)
Darren Spence, 37, died in a plane crash with three children on board near Waskada, Man., on Feb. 10, 2013. (Facebook)
This photo of the wreckage of the Cessna aircraft that claimed the lives of four people was taken by Transportation Safety Board investigators. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)
In its report, released Monday, the TSB said the Feb. 10, 2013, trip was a sightseeing flight for three boys and the pilot, Darren Spence — the father of two of the boys.

Within 30 minutes of takeoff, at about 12:30 p.m., the plane became enveloped in fog, according to the TSB.

"The investigation determined that the terrain, coupled with the reported meteorological conditions, was conducive to whiteout, a winter atmospheric optical phenomenon in which the observer appears to be engulfed in a uniformly white glow,” the report states.

“Whiteout conditions may result in a poorly defined visual horizon that will reduce the pilot's ability to visually detect changes in altitude, airspeed and position. If visual cues are sufficiently degraded, the pilot may lose control of the aircraft or fly into the ground."

The report also says the investigation found the accident occurred in an area of gently rolling hills, which were completely covered in snow.

The board therefore concluded that the pilot likely flew inadvertently into a whiteout, lost "situational awareness" and lost control of the aircraft.

"There's a risk out there, like conditions from [that] morning, for example, that it’s just going to be very, very difficult to see and orient yourself. And you might lose control of the aircraft," said TSB spokesman Peter Hildebrand.

"It's a matter of awareness and applying the training that pilots do get and make sure that you can avoid these conditions. Or get training to allow you to fly in the conditions.

"Pilots that have instrument rating or training in flaying with inclement conditions are able to avoid these kinds of problems. The pilot in this situation didn't have that kind of training, nor was he required to have it."

The plane went down in a field, killing Spence, 37, his sons, Logan, 9, and Gage, 10, and their friend, Dawson Pentecost, 9.

There was no one else aboard the aircraft, police said.