Remember the 'woefully inadequate' de-icing spray bottle? That's changed, says airline in Fond-du-Lac crash

A de-icing machine is now in place at the Fond-du-Lac airport, where a West Wind Aviation passenger flight crashed nearby just under a year ago. One person died two weeks after the crash.

West Wind Aviation CEO says new de-icing machine now in place at community airport

It's been nearly a year since a West Wind Aviation turboprop plane crashed near the Fond-du-Lac, Sask., airport on December 13, 2017. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

The new CEO of the Saskatoon airline involved in last year's Fond-du-Lac plane crash says his company has taken steps to prevent a similar tragedy.   

"We've learned from this experience. We will never be in this situation again," said Michael Rodyniuk, who took the helm of West Wind Aviation 10 months after the crash.

One of the airline's twin-turboprop planes, an ATR 42-320, crashed near the Fond-du-Lac airport shortly after takeoff on the night of Dec. 13, 2017.

Nine passengers were seriously injured in the crash and one other died in hospital two weeks later.

The Transportation Safety Board is still preparing its final report into the cause of the crash but has said the passenger plane was not de-iced before takeoff, despite having ice on it.

The de-icing equipment found by the TSB at the airport — two ladders, a hand-held spray bottle with electric blanket and wand, and a container of de-icing fluid — was described by airline experts as "woefully inadequate."

De-icing equipment is the responsibility of air carriers, according to Saskatchewan's Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.

Rodyniuk said West Wind now has de-icing machines at the La Ronge, Prince Albert and Stony Rapids airports, plus a new de-icing scissor lift at the Fond-du-Lac airport, with a "high-pressure deicing system on it" and "heated glycol."

Safety experts have called the de-icing equipment that West Wind Aviation used to have at the Fond-du-Lac airport "woefully inadequate." (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

"A lot of improvements have been made," said Rodyniuk, citing new training for ground and flight staff and changes to the airline's safety program.

Transport Canada grounded West Wind for almost five months following the crash. The regulator cited "deficiencies in the company's operational control system."

Operational control systems track several of things, including:

  • A plane's maintenance history.
  • The weight of a plane's luggage and cargo and how that weight is distributed throughout the plane.
  • Communication between pilots, dispatchers and other on-the-ground airline employees.
  • The field experience of the pilots and how many hours they worked before a flight.

West Wind was back in the air by May 2018.

Lawyer hopeful for settlement 

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed against West Wind by some of passengers of the plane that crashed may never end up in court, according to the lawyer representing the claimants.

Tony Merchant said he's hopeful a settlement will be reached with West Wind in the next two to three months.

"The company in my view wants to be fair and we're attempting to negotiate appropriate compensation," said Marchant.

"If it's not possible, we'll have to take the case to court in the normal manner."

New details about heroic efforts

According to the statement of claim filed last January, "the passengers were left to fend for themselves in the chaos of the accident."

New West Wind Aviation CEO Michael Rodyniuk. (West Wind Aviation )

Rodyniuk of West Wind offered new details of the crash that challenged that claim.

He said flight attendant Jenny Tait was a hero that night.

"[She] was injured in the accident and still managed to get the door open and get the majority of the passengers evacuated into safety," he said. "She stayed with them until the rescuers or outside folks could arrive at the scene."

Flight attendants do more than just serve refreshments, Rodyniuk said.

"This is when their real training kicks in and Jenny did just an amazing job."

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

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