Pilots should be tested for drugs and alcohol, following 2015 crash

The TSB should develop a program requiring pilots to be tested for drugs and alcohol

The airline industry and Transport Canada should develop a program requiring pilots to be tested for drugs and alcohol, the Transportation Safety Board said Thursday after releasing a report into a crash that killed two people.

Board chairwoman Kathy Fox called on both sides to work with employee representatives to implement a program that would protect public safety. She added that self-policing by the industry has not worked, so the issue of impairment will continue to go unrecognized and unreported.

“What’s needed is something more, especially for safety-sensitive positions where, to be plain, people’s lives could be at stake,” she told a news conference.

“Alcohol impairment almost certainly played a role,” Fox said of the cargo plane crash on April 13, 2005, in the mountains north of Vancouver.

Four other fatal crashes since 2009, three involving commercial operators, had drugs or alcohol as a contributing factor, said Fox, who added it was time to learn lessons from the latest disaster.

The BC Coroners Service had reported that pilot Robert Brandt had a blood-alcohol level of three times the legal limit for driving.

Brandt, 34, was captain of the twin-engine Swearingen cargo aircraft operated by Carson Air. First officer Kevin Wang, 32, also died, but did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system.

Other countries, including the United States and Australia, have found mandatory drug and alcohol testing are most effective along with education, employee assistance programs, rehabilitation, return-to-duty programs and peer support, Fox said.

The safety board said the crew did not declare an emergency before the aircraft dropped to 900 metres from 2,400 metres in less than 20 seconds.

The agency was unable to confirm why the aircraft entered a steep dive and broke apart mid-air, Fox said.

“This is not satisfying to the TSB, certainly not for the families involved and not to Canadians who have come to rely on one of the safest transportation systems in the world.”

Jason Kobi, the investigator in charge, said the aircraft disappeared from radar 80 seconds after the pilots’ final contact with air-traffic control.

There was no cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder on board, and the lack of hard data significantly undermined the investigation, Kobi said.

Investigators found the aircraft entered a steep dive and accelerated to a high speed that exceeded its structural limits and caused it to break apart before crashing, he said. Debris scattered over a wide area.

“But the question remained: Why? Unfortunately, we were never able to determine this with certainty.”

Kobi said the pilot’s high blood-alcohol content was one possibility, because it meant his physical and mental performance would have been impaired and he could have lost consciousness.

“Even if the captain, had been, for example, slumped forward toward the controls we found no indication that the first officer was incapacitated and he should still have been able to regain control of the aircraft.”

It’s also possible heaters that provide air speed information were off or malfunctioned or that the aircraft was intentionally placed into a steep dive, with several factors suggesting that could have been the case, Kobi said.

They include the duration of the dive, absence of any emergency communication and the lack of recovery efforts when the plane started to descend rapidly.

Other possible coincidental factors have been identified, including physical indications that the pilot had a history of heavy alcohol use and “the fact that there is a significant relationship between alcohol use and suicidal behaviour,” Kobi said.

“Those several coincidental factors were present (but) the investigation could not conclude anything about the captain’s predisposition to commit an intentional act.”

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Revelstoke Humane Society’s pet photos with Santa is looking a little bit different this year due to the pandemic. (Contributed/file photo)
Humane Society hosting pet holiday photo fundraiser

Their annual photos with Santa event is looking different this year due to the pandemic

An interior photo of Basecamp Resort in Revelstoke. (Submitted)
New hotel opening in Revelstoke

The Canmore based company is expanding into B.C.

Frank Desrosiers is a videographer based in Revelstoke. His art film Full Circle recently debuted at LUNA Re-imagined. (Contributed)
Revelstokians bike for mental health in latest cycling film

Full Circle by local filmmaker debuted at LUNA Re-imagined

Begbie View Elementary Corban casts his vote in last week’s mock student election. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke students vote green in provincial mock election

Begbie View Elementary was one of more than 700 elementary and high school schools that took part

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

October is Foster Parent Appreciation month. (stock image)
North Okanagan foster families applauded

October is Foster Parent Appreciation Month

(File)
Two more Kelowna flights flagged as having COVID-19 aboard

A flight from Vancouver to Kelowna and a flight from Kelowna to Edmonton have been identified

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Aberdeen Hall and St. Joseph Catholic School have confirmed cases of COVID-19. (Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School - Facebook)
COVID-19 cases confirmed at two private Kelowna schools

Aberdeen Hall and St. Joseph Catholic School communities have been made aware

Most Read