Transwest Air dealing with 3 unplanned landings in 2-month span on medevac flights in northern Sask.

Three Transwest Air medevac flights in northern Sask. have had unplanned landings in the past two months.

CEO says the 3 incidents are not related

A Transwest Air plane sits at the Prince Albert Airport in a 2015 file photo. (Transwest Air)

Transwest Air has confirmed that three medevac flights in northern Saskatchewan over the past two months have been forced to make unplanned landings.

The twin-engine Beech King Air planes involved are operated by Transwest Air. On March 1, Transwest Air merged with West Wind Aviation to become Rise Air.

The most recent incident happened on Feb. 27.

Transwest Air said in a news release that at about 12:24 p.m. CST, flight dispatch received a radio call from the crew on a flight from Stony Rapids, near the border with the Northwest Territories, to Saskatoon, about 800 kilometres to the south.

Transwest president and CEO Derek Nice, who is now president of Rise Air, said the crew noticed strange readings coming from one of the two engines. There were two crew members, the patient and two EMS workers aboard, he said. 

The plane landed safely in Prince Albert.

The other two incidents are detailed in reports to Transport Canada. Both happened on medevac flights between the northern communities of Wollaston Lake and La Ronge.

The more serious of the two happened on Jan. 3.

"Prior to descent, the left hand engine produced multiple loud bangs and vibrations, and large flames exited the engine exhaust," said the summary in the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Report System (CADORS) report.

"The left engine torque and oil pressure indications dropped to zero. The left propeller moved to the feather position and stopped abruptly. The flight crew carried out the engine shutdown checklist and declared an emergency."

The plane landed safely and there were no injuries.

Another emergency landing happened on Jan. 23 when one of the engines began inexplicably surging on descent. The crew declared an emergency and landed safely, according to the CADORS report.

John Williams is an aviation expert in Toronto who worked for Transport Canada prior until his retirement.

The Beech King Air planes use Pratt & Whitney engines, which Williams describes as "extremely reliable," so he said the unplanned landings are concerning.

"Three events of an engine nature, with this kind of engine, it would be pretty rare," he said.

"Transport Canada will be looking at this situation and saying, 'Is this an unusual number of occurrences in a short period of time? Is it indicative of something, or is it just purely the odds?' "

Nice said the company's assessment at this point is that there is no common thread linking the three incidents.

"These three incidents were all driven by unrelated events, or unrelated issues, so they're not necessarily indicative of a trend," he said.

Nice said the engine that caught fire in early January has since been replaced and the engine that surged on descent later the same month has had a component replaced and is performing as expected. Both aircraft are back in the air.

Work is still being done to figure out what happened on the most recent flight. That aircraft is staying on the ground, Nice said.

He said the company will always take the most cautious approach.

"Transport Canada audits our processes and policies, and they audit to ensure that we are reacting, or following up on issues, that we're being proactive managing our safety programs," he said.

"I think they're satisfied we're doing that."


Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.


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