HALIFAX – Weather conditions and procedural error are being blamed for the crash landing of Air Canada Flight 624 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in 2015.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada on Wednesday released the findings of its investigation into the March 29 crash, in which an Air Canada flight from Toronto hit the ground well short of the runway, injuring members of the flight crew and 25 passengers.
“Accidents are almost never caused by one factor, one organization or one person,” began Kathy Fox, chair of the board. “This accident was no different.”
Fox, along with lead investigator Doug McEwen, revealed that on the night of the accident, a number of factors played a role in Flight 624 failing to land properly. Those factors included poor weather, airfield lighting, and Air Canada’s practice of not requiring pilots to monitor the flight path during a key phase of flight.
The board has found that while visibility was an issue during the flight due to blizzard conditions, it did meet the half-mile minimum necessary to undertake landing. Compounding the issue, runway lights were not at full brightness because plows were attempting to keep the runway as clear as possible for the flight.
On approach, the crew put the plane into autopilot, setting the plane on a 3.5 degree descent towards the runway. However, strong winds pushed the plane down, causing it to lose trajectory.
Fox said the flight crew did not realize the plane was coming in too low.
“In this case, given the poor visibility – even though it was legal – coupled with the fact that airfield lighting was not at its maximum setting, meant that it was harder for the crew to assess their position,” explained Fox.
However, the investigation revealed the crew was not cross referencing to ensure trajectory was good. Air Canada’s standard operating procedure was such that once the flight path was selected, the crew didn’t need to keep an eye on the altitude or difference.
When the crew realized they were coming in too low the pilot attempted a go-around, but it was too late. The plane hit the crowd 740 feet short of the runway, taking out airport power lines and destroying the aircraft in the process.
Passengers were safely evacuated within five minutes, but Fox said the loss of power at the airport caused delays for crews attempting to bring passengers inside.