Nova Scotia

Air Canada crash in Halifax shows need for better navigation, pilots say

Several retired pilots urged the Halifax International Airport Authority at a public meeting on Thursday to improve runway safety to avoid a repeat of the recent Air Canada crash.

Instrument landing system on all runways would improve safety, Norm Murnaghan says

Norm Murnaghan flew commercial planes for 35 years. (CBC)

Several retired pilots urged the Halifax International Airport Authority at a public meeting on Thursday to improve runway safety to avoid a repeat of the recent Air Canada crash.

Norm Murnaghan, a retired pilot who flew commercially for 35 years before retiring seven years ago, praised the airport authority for improving the airport facilities and said it was time to invest in improved safety.

He said they should install an instrument landing system on two of the four approaches that lack that system.

Air Canada Flight 624 crashed in March while landing on one of those runways during poor weather. The 138 passengers, plus the crew, ended up stuck on the runway for nearly an hour after the plane struck the ground and skidded onto the strip.

​The instrument landing system, or ILS, works with the plane's autopilot and sends signals between the ground and the plane, letting the plane get lower to the ground as it approaches the runway, regardless of poor visibility. That increases the chances of a safe landing in bad weather. 

'Better ways for pilots to navigate in'

At least six retired pilots showed up at the airport authority's annual public meeting and wanted to know why the authority does not have an instrument landing system on runway 05, the site of the March crash.

"Do you have any plans to do that?" Murnaghan asked Joyce Carter, the CEO of the Halifax International Airport Authority.

"I'm not suggesting the approaches are unsafe, because they're not, but there are better ways for pilots to navigate in," he added.

Carter said the airport defers to NAV Canada, which sets the standards. NAV Canada would also pay for any improvements and maintaining those improvements.

"They have the final decision on the aids that are installed," she said.

"This airport needs to be upgraded, as far as their nav aids are concerned," Murnaghan told CBC News. "As a pilot we want to get that airplane and the people that are in it safely on the ground."

The authority says records show the airfield is open and available 98 per cent of the time. Still, Carter said the authority plans to meet with the former pilots to listen to their concerns.

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the March 29 crash. Lawyers from two firms representing passengers are trying to launch rival class action suits that name various groups, including the airport authority.

Cargo up by 8.5% in 2014

The airport also revealed that it carried more passengers and cargo in 2014 than it did the year before. The Halifax International Airport Authority said the number of passengers travelling at the airport rose 2.2 per cent in 2014 at almost 3.7 million people.

The amount of cargo that was carried rose by 8.5 per cent last year to 32,000 metric tonnes.

The airport's profits rose by about $800,000 in 2014 to a total of $7.8 million.

With files from The Canadian Press

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