News release

TSB calls for egress training and shoulder harnesses to improve survivability in floatplane accidents

Richmond Hill, Ontario, 23 October 2013 – Highlighting the fact that egress training and shoulder harnesses would have improved the chances for survival in a fatal floatplane accident at Lillabelle Lake, Ontario, in 2012, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (A12O0071) into the accident.

On 25 May 2012, a de Havilland Beaver floatplane, operated by Cochrane Air Service, crashed following an aborted landing on Lillabelle Lake in northern Ontario. When gusty conditions prevented the plane from settling on the water, the pilot initiated a “go-around.” But as the pilot applied full power and began to climb, the airspeed dropped suddenly. The aircraft yawed to the left and rolled. This likely led to an aerodynamic stall and, with insufficient altitude to re-gain control, the aircraft flipped over, struck the water and was partially submerged. All three people onboard survived the initial impact, but only one person was able to successfully escape; the other two drowned.

The TSB is making two recommendations aimed at improving the odds that anyone who survives a floatplane crash will get out alive. “In an emergency, you only have seconds to orient yourself and escape and the right training can make the difference between life and death. Pilots with underwater egress training stand a better chance of helping themselves and their passengers survive,” said TSB Chair Wendy Tadros. “Another thing that will help immeasurably is shoulder harnesses. Too many passengers survive a floatplane crash only to drown because they have suffered some kind of head trauma and can’t get out of the aircraft.”

The TSB recommendations call for underwater egress training for all flight crews engaged in commercial seaplane operations (A13-02), and for all commercial seaplanes certificated for nine or fewer passengers to be fitted with seat belts that include shoulder harnesses on all passenger seats (A13-03).

These new recommendations build on to two outstanding TSB recommendations aimed at making floatplanes safer. In its investigation into the fatal 2009 floatplane crash that killed six passengers in Lyall Harbour, British Columbia (A09P0397), the Board made two recommendations: one calling for pop-out windows and doors to better facilitate egress (A11-05), and another calling for personal flotation devices for all passengers (A11-06).

Transport Canada has committed to making flotation devices mandatory, but has not committed to requiring floatplane doors and windows to come off easily after a crash. “When a floatplane crashes on water, approximately 70% of crash victims die from drowning. All four Board recommendations are aimed at changing that reality,” said Tadros. “Transport Canada needs to treat all four recommendations with the seriousness they deserve, and take every measure to prevent more from dying in otherwise survivable accidents.”




Read the Remarks on the release of Aviation Investigation Report A12O0071 (Lillabelle Lake)
by Wendy Tadros, Chair of the Board, Transportation Safety Board of Canada
and Ewan Tasker, Investigator-in-charge, Transportation Safety Board of Canada



Read the Backgrounder

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