The plane that crashed following the second day of last year’s Abbotsford Airshow didn’t have a permit to carry paying passengers and “did not meet modern aircraft safety standards,” the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) wrote in a report issued Thursday morning.
Five people were injured – two seriously – when a 74-year-old De Havilland Dragon Rapide crashed shortly after takeoff at the Abbotsford International Airport. The museum that owned the plane had sold rides to paying customers on the air show’s website, the report said.
The plane was operated by the Historic Flight Foundation, a U.S. flight museum.
The report notes that while the aircraft “was considered airworthy, it did not meet modern aircraft safety standards.” The plane had been issued a “Special Airworthiness Certificate – Experimental” by American aviation authorities that allowed it to fly. Transport Canada had issued a permit that allowed the plane to be flown to and from the air show, but which didn’t allow it to carry paying passengers.
Airshow spokesperson Jadene Mah said the Historic Flight Foundation had been selling “memberships” rather than tickets, and that the practice is common for museums that attend air shows.
Those who buy such memberships receive cards and must sign waivers saying they know they are flying on an historic aircraft.
The plane took off with four passengers at 5:31 p.m. on Aug. 11, 2018, shortly after the air show had concluded for the day.
“During the takeoff, the aircraft encountered strong, gusting crosswinds,” the report said. “It climbed to about 30 feet above ground level before descending suddenly and impacting the runway, coming to rest on its nose immediately off the right edge of the runway.”
The TSB found that the aircraft is “more difficult to handle during crosswind takeoffs than most tail-wheel-equipped aircraft, particularly from paved (rather than grass) runways.”
The report said that, “according to pilot notes, the maximum allowable crosswind component for takeoff is 17 knots. This is not a limitation of the aircraft; rather, it is a cautionary speed, meaning that operating in winds above that value would require above-average flying skills.”
Crosswinds during the plane’s takeoff were estimated to be as much as 18 knots. The plane soon “encountered swirling winds, resulting in a sudden loss of airspeed shortly after becoming airborne,” the report said.
The report also found that the aircraft didn’t have an accurate passenger manifest on board, which could make it difficult for first responders to identify passengers.
The report concludes with several “safety messages” that stress the importance of being familiar with regulatory requirements and the fact that vintage aircraft may be more difficult to control than modern planes.
It adds: “Appropriate equipment during an emergency response needs to be available to prevent further injury and property loss after a crash. In addition, not having an accurate passenger manifest can make it difficult for first responders to confirm the identity of passengers.”
The TSB is an independent agency tasked with investigating incidents and making recommendations to address safety problems.
The report won’t result in any immediate recriminations, although Transport Canada will also have access to the report, a TSB spokesperson said.
Transport Canada said in an email Thusday that its review of the incident is “ongoing.”
Mah said “experiences with vintage aircraft are an important part of the storytelling component at the Abbotsford Airshow and we will be working together with the museum operators and vintage aircraft owners in the future to see how we can continue to keep vintage aircraft as a very important component of what we do.”
She said it is important to acknowledge that such aircraft “are museum pieces” that “don’t have the same modern components that modern aircraft do.”