Aviation Investigation A17W0172

Collision with terrain

Updated on 18 December 2017

The following update contains facts that the TSB has been able to validate at this time. It contains no conclusions about the factors that contributed to the occurrence. The final investigation report will include an analysis of all relevant factors and provide the Board's findings.

The occurrence

On 26 October 2017, the Springbank Air Training College Piper PA 34-200T Seneca II, registered as C-GCCM, departed Calgary Springbank Airport (CYBW) from Runway 17 at 0950 Mountain Daylight Time on a multi-engine training flight. On board the aircraft were the student pilot and the flight instructor.

Based on radar data, the aircraft did not climb higher than 300 feet above ground level and did not exceed 80 knots ground speed as it maintained its southerly direction. Approximately 54 seconds into the flight, the aircraft started to lose speed and altitude. At 0.8 nautical mile (nm) south of Runway 17, the aircraft rolled to the left into a steep bank and descent angle and collided with terrain. There was a post-crash fire. The two occupants were fatally injured, and the aircraft was destroyed.

Map of the area

Work to date

  • A site survey was completed and the wreckage was transported to the TSB Regional Office in Edmonton. The examination and analysis phase is now in progress.
  • A large number of technical and operational documents, weather reports, air traffic control communications, and incident reports have been gathered and reviewed by investigation team members.
  • Initial examination and documentation of aircraft systems, components and structural damage has been completed.
  • TSB investigators have been in contact with the families of the aircraft's occupants to explain the role of the TSB and our investigation process.
  • Numerous interviews have been conducted with witnesses and individuals from various organizations.

This is what we know based on the initial examination:

  • The aircraft was certified and equipped to conduct flight training operations.
  • The aircraft speeds and altitudes after takeoff that were captured on radar data were not consistent with normal aircraft performance.
  • No mechanical deficiencies were identified with the aircraft's engines, propellers, and flight controls.
  • Communications with the aircraft throughout the flight were normal. No emergency was declared.
  • At the time of the occurrence, the aircraft was under the maximum gross takeoff weight with an approximate weight of 4225 pounds, and the calculated centre of gravity was within design specifications for the aircraft.
  • There are approximately 60 Piper Seneca II aircraft registered in Canada.
  • Records indicate the instructor was certified and qualified for the flight in accordance with existing regulations and possessed a valid commercial pilot licence endorsed for single and multi-engine landplanes with a class 3 instructor rating and group 1 instrument rating.
  • At the time of the occurrence, the instructor was occupying the right-hand seat and was conducting a preparatory multi-engine flight test for the student pilot.
  • The instructor had approximately 2150 hours total flight time, with about 175 hours of multi-engine time and 150 hours on Piper PA 34 aircraft.
Student pilot
  • The student pilot possessed a valid private pilot licence.
  • At the time of the occurrence, the student pilot was occupying the left-hand seat and was preparing for the multi-engine rating flight test examination.
  • The student pilot had approximately 140 hours total flight time.

A detailed weather record for CYBW on the day of the occurrence has been compiled.

The Automatic Terminal Information System (ATIS) message at the time of the occurrence was ATIS message Charlie, which stated the following: winds from 130° at 14 knots, visibility 9 statute miles, scattered cloud at 21 000 feet above sea level, temperature −5 °C, dew point −6 °C, and altimeter setting 30.31 inches of mercury. The active runway was Runway 17.

Next steps

  • Analyze the flight profile to understand the takeoff phase
  • Analyze the radar data to evaluate aircraft performance and determine, to the extent possible, what factors affected that performance
  • Analyze radar data and select components
  • Obtain data from Piper Aircraft, Inc., the manufacturer, regarding aircraft performance
  • Examine the pilots' training and experience, and human performance aspects
  • Conduct additional interviews as required
  • Complete the report phase of the investigation

Communication of safety deficiencies

Should the investigation team uncover a safety deficiency that represents an immediate risk to aviation, the TSB will communicate immediately so that it may be addressed quickly.


Photo of Barry Holt

Barry Holt has been an air safety investigator at the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) since 2001. He has been investigator-in-charge on over 300 class 5 and 20 class 3 investigations in the Western Region, and was part of the technical team that investigated the collision with water of the Cougar Helicopters' Sikorsky S-92A (A09A0016) off the coast of Newfoundland in 2009.

Before that, Mr. Holt spent 15 years in the field as an aircraft maintenance engineer, mostly in remote and/or northern locations, on light and heavy helicopters. Previously, he had been a hoist operator for search and rescue activities and a senior helicopter maintenance engineer for the Canadian Coast Guard, and also worked at Transport Canada in the Enforcement Branch for a short time.

Investigation teamwork

The investigator-in-charge, Barry Holt, is being assisted in this investigation by TSB investigators with backgrounds in flight operations, aircraft performance, aircraft systems and engines, human performance, and air traffic control. Representatives from the operator, the manufacturer and the regulator are also providing assistance.


Link to the TSB Flickr page

See more high resolution pictures on the TSB Flickr page.

Transportation Safety Board investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation:

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.


Deployment notices

TSB deploys a team of investigators to Springbank Airport in Calgary, Alberta, following a small aircraft accident
Read the deployment notice