Canada’s Transportation Safety Board cannot definitely say what caused a fatal small plane crash near Calabogie in October 2012.
Robert Reany, age 74 of Port Elgin, Ont., was killed when his six-seat Socata TBM-850 plane hit the ground between Calabogie and Griffith, Ont., Oct. 9, 2012.
He had been flying with the plane’s owner from Goderich, Ont., to the Carp airport and was planning to return to Goderich to pick up his wife, she said.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said in a report Reany took off by himself from Carp around noon on Oct. 9, having made up his mind to fly to Wiarton first to pick up a manual.
It said Reany last contacted air traffic control at 12:12 p.m. before wavering slightly from the direct path to Wiarton, climbing higher than had been requested then going into two separate spiral dives before pulling off "unusual" manouevres such as loops and upside-down flight and crashing into a forested area.
No autopilot, air tanks off
The TSB said they believe low oxygen levels, or “hypoxia” may have caused the crash because of a number of factors, but they couldn’t be definitively linked.
They include the fact Reany was sitting in the right-hand seat instead of the left, because some warnings aren’t as visible and some switches are more difficult to use.
The report said Reany had been sitting in the right-hand seat for the flight from Goderich to Carp because the plane’s owner had been sitting to the left, but it’s unknown why he stayed there for the return trip.
It also said autopilot was not being used, because it needs someone in the left seat, the compressed air valve was off when the plane hit the ground and the valve that would have supplied emergency oxygen was found in the “off” position.
“An undetermined loss of pressurization is consistent with the (compressed air valve) position and, combined with the unavailability of onboard oxygen, could explain the controlled initiation of an emergency maximum rate of descent shortly followed by incapacitation and loss of control, possibly due to hypoxia,” it said.
“However, the reduction in the rate of descent, observed manoeuvers, and other unusual factors present too many uncertainties to conclude that hypoxia was the cause.”
It also said his age and fact he was on medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol may have played in, although medical officials were aware of it and had decided not to withhold a valid medical certificate.
The report was issued in January 2014.