Magdalen Islands fatal crash has aviation experts questioning decision to take off

While an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board is underway in the Magdalen Islands to determine what caused the crash that killed all seven people on board, some pilots and other aviation experts are questioning why the flight took off despite bad weather.

Small plane crashed in bad weather, killing all 7 aboard including political pundit Jean Lapierre

Investigating Magdalen Islands plane crash

8 years ago
Duration 2:00
Featured VideoThe plane went down about three kilometres from the airport, killing all seven people on board, including Jean Lapierre

While an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board is underway in Quebec's Magdalen Islands to determine what caused the crash that killed all seven people on board, some pilots and other aviation experts are questioning why the flight took off in bad weather.

The plane left St-Hubert Longueuil Airport on Montreal's South Shore at 9:30 a.m. ET. It went down at around 11:40 a.m. AT just three kilometres from the Magdalen Island airport, in freezing fog and rain.

All seven people on board — including political pundit and former cabinet minister Jean Lapierre, his wife, three siblings and two crew members — were killed.

TSB investigators who arrived at the crash site Wednesday afternoon said it is too soon to know for sure if weather was the cause of the crash.

The Quebec provincial police also sent investigators to the site for a separate investigation to determine if there was any criminal involvement.

Other flights cancelled

Some pilots at St-Hubert airport told CBC News they didn't want to risk flying in the bad conditions.

'The clouds were low and visibility was reduced,' said Michel Turcotte, a pilot for Pascan Aviation, a regional airline based in St-Hubert, Que. (CBC)
"The wind was blowing at 45 knots during the day, the clouds were low and visibility was reduced," said Michel Turcotte, a pilot for Pascan Aviation, a regional airline based in Saint-Hubert.

Pascan Aviation cancelled its Tuesday flights for the Magdalen Islands.

"If the clouds are high enough that we can see the runway, we can land. But if they drop a bit, we can't," Turcotte said.

In Canada, when it comes to small aircraft, it's up to the pilot to decide whether to fly, according to Daniel Adams, an aviation security analyst.

"It's always the pilot who has the last word. Based on weather data that existed [Tuesday], it is clear in my mind that I would not have [made an] approach to the Magdalen Islands," Adams told Radio-Canada.

Pilot was always prudent, friend says

The pilot, Pascal Gosselin, and co-pilot, Fabrice Labourel, were both killed in the crash.

Christian Guy, a friend of Gosselin, said he believes the pilot was a victim of his own generosity.

"Pascal wore his heart on his sleeve and I think he really wanted to help Mr. Lapierre and his family," Guy said.

Lapierre, his wife and three of his siblings were on their way to the Magdalen Islands for their father's funeral.

Pilot Pascal Gosselin and co-pilot Fabrice Labourel were the two crew members killed when the small plane crashed Tuesday in the Magdalen Islands. (Radio-Canada)

Despite that, Guy said, his friend was prudent and never took unnecessary risks.

"If he decided to take off yesterday, it's because he was certain he could have done it in complete safety."

Gosselin owned Aero Teknic, the company operating the flight. Aero Teknic would not comment.

Other experts are raising questions about the plane itself — a Mitsubishi MU-2.

"This is not an airplane that is made to fly in our weather conditions. This is a plane that is made to be fast," said Charles-Eric Lamarche, an air operations consultant for Octant Aviation. "They do have small wings and it's a little tougher for them to sustain a small amount of ice."

In a statement, the plane's manufacturer Mitsubishi said, "The aircraft has a best in its class safety record during the last eight years."

Mitsubishi said it is sending its own investigators to the crash site as well, and will collaborate fully with the TSB investigation.


  • An earlier version of this story said that the TSB was leading a joint investigation. In fact the TSB is the sole entity conducting the safety investigation. Quebec provincial police investigators are conducting a separate investigation.
    Mar 31, 2016 12:33 PM ET

With files from CBC's Ainslie MacLellan and Radio-Canada's Olivier Bachand