Push for more military pilots factor in 2014 Moose Jaw crash: RCAF report

Pressure to crank out more military pilots was a factor in a plane crash that injured two people at the Moose Jaw, Sask., air base two years ago, a Royal Canadian Air Force report says.

2 received minor injuries after ejecting from plane on Jan. 24, 2014

After the flight instructor and student pilot ejected, the Harvard II turpoprop crashed in a vacant field. (RCAF)

Pressure to crank out more military pilots was a factor in a plane crash that injured two people at the Moose Jaw, Sask., air base two years ago, a Royal Canadian Air Force report says.

The investigation found that a need to increase pilot production to 125 per year at the Canadian Forces Flying Training School resulted in less training time for flight instructors and a "significant reduction" in practice runs to train for emergency landings.

That in turn played a role in what happened on Jan. 24, 2014, when a Harvard II training aircraft crashed near the city after the flight instructor and the student pilot ejected.

The plane that crashed was a CT-156 Harvard II trainer. (Courtesy: Canadian Forces)

That was the correct course of action under the circumstances, the report released this week says — but a number of bad things that happened that day might have been avoided.

Earlier in the day, the two had been practicing emergency landings. It was windy and there were problems with one of the attempted landings.

The plane touched down momentarily in a "hard landing", with the landing gear and nose touching the runway, but then the instructor aborted and pulled up.

Chase plane confirmed gear was damaged

Once back in the air, an indicator went off signaling that the landing gear was damaged and wasn't locking properly.

A chase plane was brought in to inspect the gear, confirming there was damage, and after some discussion, it was determined it wouldn't be safe to attempt another landing.

The instructor and the student pilot ejected and the plane crashed in an empty field.

The two were taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The student banged his knee while ejecting and was dragged by his parachute for 37 metres after landing.

Various problems cropped up

There were a few other things that went wrong, the report says. 

Ironically, the instructor had been planning to practice forced landings on that day, but was instead assigned for the pilot training run. The pre-flight briefing lasted only 10 minutes, compared to the usual 30.

The plane rolled a few times in an attempt to fix the landing gear, but while doing so, a door fell off in the vicinity of the chase plane. 

Later, there was another incident involving the ambulance with the student pilot inside. As it rushed the student to the hospital, it drove by close to the injured instructor and at a speed some thought was excessive.

Air Force makes changes

Since the crash, rules for making practice landings in windy conditions have been tightened up. There were also changes made to the rules for landing planes with the flaps down, which happened in this case and was deemed a contributory factor in the incident.

There was no word in the report about whether the RCAF is planning to revise the requirement to produce 125 pilots per year.

Col. Steve Charpentier, the director of flight safety with the Department of National Defence, made several references to the the mandate to increase pilot production in his comments.

"Attempts to do more with less in the current context of continuous operational and financial optimum efficiencies have routinely been made, in the RCAF as well as throughout society," Charpentier said.

"However, there will typically always be some level of compromise in quality if or when quantity becomes the focus."

The chase plane confirmed there was damage to the landing gear that made it necessary for the two-person crew to eject. (RCAF)