Inat­ten­tion led to pi­lot crash­ing crop duster

Flyer was look­ing at maps, doc­u­ments prior to air­craft col­lid­ing with the ground

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - ALEX MACPHER­SON amacpher­son@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/macpher­sona

The pi­lot of a crop duster that plowed into a field near Aberdeen this sum­mer was con­cen­trat­ing on tasks in­side the air­craft’s cock­pit rather than look­ing out the win­dows when he ex­pe­ri­enced a loss of “sit­u­a­tional aware­ness” and crashed, ac­cord­ing to the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board of Canada.

The 25-year-old pi­lot sus­tained se­ri­ous in­juries and the air­craft, an Air Trac­tor AT-502B owned by Clayton Air Ser­vice, was writ­ten off fol­low­ing the July 15 crash; no one else was hurt.

TSB re­gional se­nior in­ves­ti­ga­tor Allen Bar­rett said the pi­lot had fin­ished spray­ing one field and climbed to an al­ti­tude of a few hun­dred feet above the ground when he be­gan look­ing at maps and doc­u­ments.

“The next thing you know he looked up and he was about to hit the ground,” Bar­rett said af­ter the TSB re­leased a brief state­ment on the crash about 20 kilo­me­tres north­east of Saska­toon.

Bar­rett added that the fed­eral or­ga­ni­za­tion gov­ern­ing avi­a­tion safety is not launch­ing a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the crash, largely be­cause it caused no fa­tal­i­ties.

Reached by phone on Thurs­day, Clayton Air Ser­vice owner Clayton Rem­pel said the TSB’s re­port is “con­clu­sively” what hap­pened.

He said the pi­lot has re­cov­ered from his in­juries and re­turned to fly­ing, and that it’s un­for­tu­nate crashes hap­pen de­spite strict safety pro­ce­dures aimed at pro­tect­ing pi­lots and the pub­lic.

Bar­rett said Clayton Air Ser­vice ful­filled its obli­ga­tions in the af­ter­math of the crash, and held safety meet­ings as well as in­di­vid­ual meet­ings with its pi­lots “just to make sure that the com­pany mes­sage was clear.”

That mes­sage, the TBS in­ves­ti­ga­tor added, was to make sure the pi­lots un­der­stood the risks they take.

Between 2004 and 2015, the TSB gath­ered re­ports of 187 avi­a­tion mishaps in Saskatchewan, of which 30, or 16 per cent, in­volved aerial spray­ing op­er­a­tions. Over the same pe­riod, 244 less se­ri­ous in­ci­dents, of which four in­volved spray planes, were re­ported to the TSB. Most re­cently, 22-year-old Colby Becker died when his crop duster crashed in a field near Ro­canville last July.

The next thing you know he (the pi­lot) looked up and he was about to hit the ground.

BRYAN SCHLOSSER

An agri­cul­tural spray air­craft sim­i­lar to the AT-502B that crashed near Aberdeen on July 15 se­ri­ously in­jur­ing the pi­lot, flies over a farm field.

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