Ornge continues ban on using unlit landing pads
Province's air ambulance trying to find answers to problem of flying over unlit terrain, following recent fatal crash.
A ban on ORNGE helicopters landing at night on 73 remote pads continues to be in effect since it began after a fatal crash near Moosonee, Ont. in May.
Dr. Andrew McCallum, president of the province's air ambulance, said ORNGE had been wrestling for months with how to address "black hole" landings and take-offs — a term used to describe the pilot disorientation caused by flying over unlit terrain.
McCallum said ORNGE had been talking about it with Transport Canada.
- Watch: Deadly helicopter crash
"So it's taken some time to work that through, but I can tell you that the … May 31 [crash] significantly galvanized what we needed to do," he said.
The Transportation Safety Board reported there is no indication that mechanical problems were a factor in the helicopter crash that killed two paramedics and two pilots. The Sikorsky S76 air ambulance went down shortly after take-off.
Remote landing pads rarely used
Since then, night landings at unlit helipads are banned, subject to pilot training and better lighting.
McCallum emphasized that most remote landing pads are rarely used.
One of 73 affected is in the Township of Cockburn Island at the western end of Manitoulin Island, where town clerk Brent St. Denis said he can't remember the last night landing.
But he does remember not having air transport for people with medical emergencies, he added.
"The plan B, more often than not, is that people would be taken off by boat," St. Denis said.
While nighttime air transport service may be one that’s rarely used, St.Denis said the township of 160 people would still like to have it. He said town council has been in touch with ORNGE to make sure it knows there are electric lights available at the pad if necessary.