Nova Scotia

Passengers win court challenge in lawsuit over 2015 Air Canada crash

A group of Air Canada passengers who were on a flight that crashed in Nova Scotia four years ago have won a victory arising out of their class-action lawsuit.

Two dozen passengers are suing Air Canada after their plane crashed short of Halifax airport runway

Airport firefighters work at the site of an Air Canada plane crash on March 29, 2015 at Stanfield International Airport in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A group of Air Canada passengers who were on a flight that crashed in Nova Scotia four years ago have won a victory arising out of their class-action lawsuit.

About two dozen people were injured when a twin-engine Airbus 320, carrying 133 passengers and five crew members, slammed into the ground 200 metres short of a runway at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

The crash occurred just after midnight on March 29, 2015. There was heavy snowfall and gusty winds at the time.

An investigation by the federal Transportation Safety Board noted that the jet hit the ground, bounced and skidded for another 570 metres, shedding one of its engines and its landing gear.

In its 2017 report on the crash, the board said the plane was "destroyed." Twenty-five people were treated in hospital for a variety of non-life-threatening injuries.

After the lawsuit was filed, the TSB rejected a request from the lawyers representing the passengers for the release of audio data from the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder, citing privilege and privacy issues.

Air Canada and lawyers for the pilots aboard the flight on the night of the crash also opposed the request.

The plaintiffs then took their battle to obtain the recorder data to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The plane's nose broke off, as did one of the engines. (Reuters)

Justice Patrick Duncan, who heard the case, listened to the on-board recording and reviewed the transcript.

In his decision to award access to the data, he said it was clear that the cockpit audio recording contains information important to the case.

"I have concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, the public interest in the administration of justice outweighs the importance attached to the statutory privilege protecting the cockpit voice recorder.

"The contents of the CVR are relevant and reliable. The conversation recorded does not contain private or scandalous material."

TSB investigators have said the flight crew set the plane's autopilot to descend. But because the procedure did not require the crew to monitor the plane's altitude and distance from the runway, it didn't notice changes in the wind that caused the jet to move farther back from the expected flight path. 

Following the crash, Air Canada made improvements to its pilot training and Halifax Stanfield upgraded approach lighting for the runway where the crash occurred.

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