A Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) report concluded the pilot of a Cessna 185E may have paid too much attention to his cellphone and not enough to flying.
The pilot, the only person aboard the aircraft, died when the plane went down on Nov. 30, 2011. On a flight from Peace River, Alberta to Fort St. John, British Columbia, the Cessna crashed about 20 kilometers (12.7 miles) away from the Fort St. John airport. The plane clipped a tree before smashing into the ground.
Yesterday, the TSB issued its report of the investigation into the fatal crash. As reported by the Vancouver Sun, the pilot spent 28 minutes of the estimated 65 minute flight on his cellphone. He received three text messages during the trip, the last one coming in 11 minutes before the plane went down.
The report noted the commercial pilot, who was employed by Trek Aerial Surveyors, changed altitude from a low of 3,500 feet to a high of 4,600, three times during the flight, leading to the conclusion he may have been distracted.
While the TSB found no evidence of either mechanical problems with the Cessna or pilot illness, another factor was found that either caused or contributed to the pilot's death. Darkness had descended before the pilot, who was flying visually, could reach Fort St. John. He would have been flying in total darkness except for the lights at the airport. According to the TSB, this could have given him the illusion the airport was closer than it really was and the pilot may have been attempting to land.
Using a handheld cellphone while driving is illegal in Canada except in Nunavut. But there are no rules prohibiting talking on a cellphone or texting while flying an airplane. One of the conclusions of the TSB report states the obvious—"Pilots who engage in non-essential text and voice cellphone communications while conducting flight operations may be distracted from flying the aircraft, placing crew and passengers at risk."
CBC reports Trek Aerial Surveys have implemented all the recommendations the TSB made. An operational management system has been put into place and the company's pilots are now restricted to flying during the day. As well, pilots will undergo biannual aircraft recurrency training.
And pilots are now prohibited from using cellphones during flights, except for emergencies.