News release

Flight experience a central factor to 2012 Kananaskis helicopter accident

Edmonton, Alberta, 23 July 2013 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (A12W0031) into the March 2012 accident involving a helicopter on a sightseeing flight. The helicopter experienced a loss of control and collided with terrain on Loder Peak, near Kananaskis, Alberta. The pilot was killed and the four passengers were injured in the accident.

The helicopter, a Bell 206B operated by Kananaskis Mountain Helicopters Ltd., was flown in very close proximity to mountainous terrain. Wind and weather conditions close to mountains can negatively affect aircraft performance, such as its ability to climb, maintain altitude or maintain tail rotor effectiveness. Visual illusions associated with flying towards rising terrain may have caused the pilot to make control inputs that further reduced aircraft performance. The collision with terrain was either the result of a tail rotor strike with the rising terrain, or an uncontrolled rotation caused by the aerodynamic loss of tail rotor effectiveness.

TSB investigators found that the pilot had minimal mountain flying training and experience and therefore, it was unlikely that the pilot was able to recognize and handle the hazards associated with flying in mountainous terrain. While the helicopter had a flight tracking system installed, company staff were not aware of it being overdue until they were contact by search and rescue authorities. This delayed the start of search and rescue operations.

The accident helicopter did not have a lightweight flight recording system installed, nor is the equipment required. Without lightweight flight recorders, operators are less able to effectively monitor flight operations, to identify and correct safety deficiencies and reduce the risk of accidents. The TSB recently made a recommendation to install lightweight flight recording systems aboard commercial aircraft not currently required to carry one.

Since the accident, Kananaskis Mountain Helicopters took a number of measures to reduce operational risks. These include requiring pilots to wear helmets while flying, enhancing mountain flying training and putting safeguards in place to ensure that all required training has been completed.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053