First Air crash probe moves to Ottawa
Airline's boss speaks about meeting victims' families
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada kicked off the second phase of its investigation Tuesday into the crash of First Air flight 6560, which happened exactly one month ago.
The post-field phase is held in Ottawa and includes testing components of the wreckage in the lab, determining the sequence of events and identifying any safety issues.
The first phase was carried out at the scene of the crash, which killed 12 people when the Boeing 737-200 slammed into a hillside near Resolute, Nunavut.
According to the safety board's website, if there is any suspicion of safety problems, investigators will advise the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of a final report, which would be phase three.
First Air, which employs about 1,100 workers, said it continues to cooperate with the investigation.
CEO Scott Bateman assured CBC News that the company also has an excellent safety record, which includes passing a safety audit in 2011.
At the headquarters in west Ottawa, Bateman spoke of his company's response in the past month, including his first reaction to the crash.
"It was clear from the beginning that we had a situation with an aircraft going down and a loss of life," said Bateman.
"It is your worst nightmare come true, and now your main concern after the survivors, again, is for the impacted families of the passengers and crews."
First Air boss met with families
Bateman said he quickly jumped on a flight to Edmonton, where he met with the families of two crew members, then to Yellowknife to meet with the families of the other two crew members.
He then went on to Resolute Bay to pay respects to the community, before visiting each of the survivors during the following weeks.
"When I go to visit the families of colleagues or their survivors, I'm there to show our compassion, to show our grief, and respectably send our sincerest condolences," he said.
Bateman specifically mentioned meeting survivor Nicole Williamson, a 23-year-old graduate student at Carleton University.
"I was astonished of her strength, her composure, and her amazing story. Obviously, there's not a whole lot I can say that will make it better at this point," he admitted.
Airline buffs up fleet
First Air operates in very harsh conditions, including gravel runways and over vast, open areas, Bateman added.
As a result, there are few replacement aircraft for their fleet. But the airline has purchased four aircraft, which will be introduced over the next five months to bring its fleet to 21 aircraft.
That will include two more Boeing 737-200s and the company's first two ATR 72, twin-engine turboprop passenger airplanes. All planes were ordered before the Aug. 20 crash.
Results of the safety board’s investigation are not expected for a few months.