Engine failure ruled out as cause of Fond du Lac plane crash
Engine failure has been ruled out as the cause of last week’s plane crash in northern Saskatchewan.
“The engines were operating up to the point of impact,” Eric Vermette, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s manager of central region air investigations, said at a news conference Wednesday in Winnipeg.
Vermette told reporters both engines on the West Wind Aviation plane, an ATR-42 turboprop, ran up until the aircraft hit trees and terrain less than a mile west of a runway at the Fond du Lac airport.
“There was no engine failure, on either engine, prior to the aircraft coming down, settling into the trees and into the terrain,” he said.
The plane, which was headed to Stony Rapids, crashed Dec. 13 shortly after takeoff from Fond du Lac. Information released last week from the TSB showed the crash left a path of wreckage extending at least 800 feet.
No fire or explosion was caused by the impact.
“It is quite remarkable there was no fire,” Vermette said. “It was good news.”
The area was covered in gas after the crash, according to both a passenger on the plane and a man who helped rescue people from the aircraft.
Vermette said investigators have recovered fuel samples from the area. He also said some electronic instruments — such as the flight data recorder — located on scene are now at the TSB’s lab in Ottawa.
He said the TSB has weighed the luggage and cargo on the plane but are not yet able to determine if the plane was above the maximum takeoff weight. Other factors still need to be determined before ruling on the role of the plane’s weight in the crash.
“An aircraft has multiple, different maximum takeoff weights based on structural limits of the aircraft, but also on the conditions that it’s taking off from and runway lengths,” he said.
Fond du Lac has no official weather reporting source, according to Vermette, so investigators are still researching the weather conditions at the time of the crash.
He stressed the investigation is ongoing.
Twin-engine ATR-42 turboprop planes can accommodate 50 passengers, but most typically seat 42 people, along with two crew members. Manufactured in France and Italy, the aircraft is designed for short-haul flights.
West Wind Aviation, formed in 1983, operates from bases in Saskatoon, La Ronge and Stony Rapids, as well as in northern Saskatchewan. The company is First Nations and employee-owned, with Athabasca Basin Development the majority shareholder.
West Wind has grounded its other ATR aircraft following the crash, according to the TSB.
--- with files from The Canadian Press