Canada

Transport Canada cutbacks troubling, says Dryden crash inspector

The man whose report on one of Canada's worst air disasters led to a number of changes in Canadian airline travel says federal cost-cutting could lead to another serious accident.

The man whose report on one of Canada's worst air disasters led to a number of changes in Canadian airline travel says federal cost-cutting could lead to another serious accident.

Retired justice Virgil Moshansky says efforts to strengthen federal oversight have fallen off since the mid-1990s.

"The government has underfunded Transport Canada to the extent that they let their aviation inspectorate staff be decimated to the point where they can't carry out their responsibility or regulatory oversight," said Moshansky.

Moshansky headed up the inquiry into the March 10, 1989, crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363, which marks its 20th anniversary on Tuesday.

Twenty-four people were killed in a crash soon after the Dutch-built Fokker F-28 lifted off from the snowy airport in Dryden, where it had made a scheduled stop en route from Thunder Bay, Ont., to Winnipeg.

The plane struggled to climb beyond a height of four storeys before it smashed into trees about a kilometre west of the runway.

Ice on the wings was cited as the cause.

Moshansky's 2,000-page report prompted numerous changes in air-travel policies, including an emphasis on the danger of ice buildup on the wings.

De-icing was made mandatory and airlines were required to use a chemical spray.

Airports, especially larger ones, also had to locate a de-icing bay close to the runway, because planes often had long waits to take off and de-icing fluid could wear off in minutes.

Before the report, airlines would often spray boiling hot water on the wings, which would melt the ice but refreeze into a thin glaze of invisible ice, said Moshansky. Ice changes the shape of the wing and hampers a plane's ability to lift off.

"There was very little recognition up until Dryden of the dangers of wing contamination," Moshansky said. "It's remarkable that this was such an oversight."

A bronze plaque will be re-dedicated Tuesday in Dryden to those killed in the crash.

Last month, a Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 plummeted from the sky and landed on a house in Clarence, N.Y., killing one occupant of the home and 49 people aboard the plane, including a Canadian man.

While the cause has not been determined, relatives of one of the passengers are suing Bombardier Aerospace, Continental Airlines and the flight's operators, claiming the aircraft had inadequate de-icing equipment and an improperly trained crew.

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