Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 05, 2012 - 5:06 pm

Investigators call First Air crash a “controlled flight into terrain”

Investigation shows flight crew attempted an aborted landing two seconds before impact

SARAH ROGERS
As part of the ongoing investigation into what caused last summer’s First Air flight 6560 crash, pictured here, the Transportation Safety Board has classified the incident as a controlled flight into terrain accident. That means the aircraft was flown unintentionally into an obstacle or terrain, usually without prior awareness by the flight crew. (FILE PHOTO)
As part of the ongoing investigation into what caused last summer’s First Air flight 6560 crash, pictured here, the Transportation Safety Board has classified the incident as a controlled flight into terrain accident. That means the aircraft was flown unintentionally into an obstacle or terrain, usually without prior awareness by the flight crew. (FILE PHOTO)

The crew of First Air flight 6560 initiated a go-around, or an aborted landing, two seconds before the Boeing 737-210C struck a hillside outside of Resolute Bay last August, a new progress report on the crash investigation said Jan. 5.

But Transportation Safety Board investigators have yet to explain what caused the crash that killed 12 people Aug. 20 in one of the worst air disasters ever recorded in Nunavut.

As part of the continuing investigation into what caused the crash, TSB investigators have classified the incident as a “controlled flight into terrain” accident.

That means the aircraft was flown unintentionally into an obstacle or terrain, usually without prior awareness by the flight crew.

The progress report notes that when the crew initiated the go-around just before impact, the aircraft’s landing gear was down and locked, the plane’s speed was 157 knots and the final landing checklist was complete.

TSB investigators continue to look at the aircraft’s flight and navigational instruments, but a preliminary examination of the Boeing 737 reveals no pre-impact problems and shows the plane’s engines were operating at the time of the accident.

TSB investigators say weather reports in Resolute Bay shortly after the accident at noon Central time noted light drizzle and mist with an overcast cloud ceiling of roughly 300 feet.

The weather conditions required the flight’s crew to perform an instrument approach using the aircraft’s flight and navigation instruments, the TSB report said.

Flight 6560 crashed one nautical mile east of the airport’s runway.

But another aircraft successfully completed a similar approach approximately 20 minutes after the accident. The ground-based instrument landing system equipment in Resolute Bay was reported as “serviceable” when analyzed two days after the crash.

The TSB report notes that the Resolute Bay airport is normally an uncontrolled airport, which means there are no air traffic controllers stationed there.

At the time of the crash, however, a temporary military control zone was set up at the airport to accommodate an increase in air traffic from Operation Nanook, the military exercise taking place in Resolute during August.

The TSB team, which is in phase two of its three-phase investigation, says it continues to study the temporary control zone and the coordination and operation of the airspace between civilian and military control agencies.

TSB spokesperson John Cottreau said the team should wrap up its investigation by March 2012.

At that point, the investigation’s findings will go into a final report.

That report will look at the causes and contributing factors that led the crash, Cottreau said, but its purpose is not to assign fault.

“We’re prohibited by our mandate to assign blame,” Cottreau said. “Our findings might lead to civil actions — something a court would decide.”

“But our investigation is strictly for safety issues,” he added. “What can we find out that could lead to a safer system?”

Read the TSB’s progress report here.

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