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In the release of its investigation report (A18P0031), the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that pilot decision-making and winter weather conditions contributed to a 2018 accident in which a Beechcraft King Air B100, operated by Island Express Air Inc., collided with terrain shortly after takeoff from Abbotsford Airport, B.C.
On Feb. 23, 2018, the pilot, who was also the owner of Island Express at that time, and nine family members boarded the Beechcraft King Air for a trip to California. Seconds after takeoff, the aircraft experienced an aerodynamic stall resulting from ice contamination on the wings. In an attempt to make an immediate off-field emergency landing, the pilot applied forward pressure on the control column to land the aircraft. The aircraft collided with the terrain and slid to a stop north of the runway. The pilot and five passengers sustained serious injuries while the four remaining passengers received minor injuries. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact.
The investigation found that the decision to take off came after 14 minutes of exposure to heavy snowfall, which resulted in conditions highly conducive to severe ground icing. The pilot’s decision-making was affected by continuation bias, illustrated by his desire to complete the flight with his family and the attempt to take off despite exposure to severe ground icing conditions. The investigation also found that the pilot and one passenger sustained serious head injuries as a result of not wearing available shoulder harnesses.
In addition, the investigation highlights the severity of heavy snowfall conditions from a ground icing standpoint. If pilots rely only on the snowfall intensity reported in aviation routine weather reports or automated terminal information service broadcasts, they will not correctly determine de-icing and anti-icing holdover times (the estimated time that an application of de-icing/anti-icing fluid is effective in preventing frost, ice, or snow from adhering to treated surfaces), increasing the risk of aircraft accidents.
Immediately following the accident, Island Express voluntarily ceased operations, and Transport Canada suspended the company’s operating certificates pending a thorough re-certification process. Island Express subsequently changed ownership, made personnel changes, modified procedures and training programs, set higher standards for pilot training, and introduced new operational equipment and processes to improve safety. Following review by Transport Canada, the operating certificate for Island Express was reinstated on June 26, 2018.