British Columbia

Float plane crash prompts post-crash fire warning

A spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the federal government needs to do more to reduce the number of post-crash fires on airplanes.
Images come back from the site of a fatal float plane crash 2:35

A spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the federal government needs to do more to reduce the number of post-crash fires on airplanes.

Bill Yearwood says photos of the wreckage of an Air Nootka plane on the west coast of Vancouver Island and interviews with a survivor indicate there was a fire after the crash near Hesquiat Lake on Friday.

He says the TSB is asking the federal government to mandate battery kill switches, safer fuel lines and bigger escape hatches.

Yearwood says the TSB has already warned lives would be lost if action wasn't taken by the federal government to prevent post-crash fires.

"In my mind when we see them happen time and time again, it's unsatisfactory," Yearwood said. "It's very difficult, particularly for the families."

Yearwood says the coroner has yet to release the causes of deaths, but the accident has all the signatures of what the TSB has been reporting on and fearing.

Seven years ago, the TSB recommended the government require some planes be better equipped to prevent post-crash fires.

Two years ago, the board blamed a post-crash fire for killing two pilots after their Beechcraft Air King crashed on a busy Richmond Street.

Unrealistic demands

In a written statement, Transport Canada says it and other regulators are working to improve standards to reduce the number of post-impact fires, including requiring new aircraft to increase the resistance of fuselages to fire and to use less flammable materials in the passenger compartments.

"We are co-operating fully with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in its investigation of the Air Nootka accident," the statement reads.

"It would be inappropriate to speculate at this time as to the cause of the accident. The TSB investigation will determine the contributing factors in this accident."

And some within the small aircraft industry say the demands being made by the TSB are unrealistic.

Rick Church, an aircraft maintenance engineer and commercial pilot who owns Langley Aero, says he respects what the TSB is trying to do but a battery kill switch is a complicated safety feature for small, old planes like the Beaver floatplane.

"The cost to install them would just be so high and I have a large concern over a system like that inadvertently triggering when it thinks there's a problem when there really isn't, you know false trip, and killing all the power to an aircraft especially when it's flying on instruments. That would be a pretty bad situation to be in," he said.

Church says more fatalities can be prevented by focusing on pilot and passenger training to prevent crashes in the first place.