Two weeks after aviation instructors Jeff Bird, 35, and Reyn Johnson, 64, died in a plane crash near Cochrane, Mount Royal University is conducting an internal review into its flying program. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada meanwhile is moving into the next phase of its investigation into the Feb. 13 accident.
Despite the investigations, Duane Anderson, vice-president of administrative services at MRU, said Monday morning that students will resume flying this week.
He said students will first have to sit in the cockpit of the airplane for at least five minutes or longer until they feel a sense of comfort and reflect on that experience. Students will then fly around the Springbank hanger to complete the standard circle route three times. Students will then fly in the designated practice area where the crash occurred.
“We understand it will be an emotional experience and there are supports in place for every student. Before any plane takes off, it will be rigorously inspected and approved by a qualified aircraft maintenance engineer; safety is our top priority,” said Anderson.
Past incidents in MRU aviation program
Anderson said digging into university archives and reviewing with the Transportation Safety Board have revealed previous flying fatalities.
In 1973, Al Milne died in a plane crash near the airport of Springbank, according to MRU’s archives.
In 1974, Victor Jewitt died in a single-engine Grumman American Yankee aircraft. He was with a junior instructor who survived the crash. Jewitt was reported to be the chief instructor for the North American Air Training College. At the time, Mount Royal College was the service provider for the flight training portion of Mount Royal’s aviation program.
In 1989, Rodger Millie, a crewman from another flight operator passed away in a mid-air collision with a plane piloted by a Mount Royal instructor and aviation student.
In a press release, the university noted other cases may come to light in the future when more records from the past are examined. “You’re doing things that are different than just basic training, basic flying, becuase you are training to deal with incidents and situations that’s part of how you train pilots to do their work in the future,” – Duane Anderson, vice-president of administrative services at MRU
Anderson said they have also initiated an Access to Information request to learn more about 14 occurrences noted by the TSB. He added the institution does not have all of the details.
“Flight training and organizations have incidents because of the nature of flight training. You’re doing things that are different than just basic training, basic flying, becuase you are training to deal with incidents and situations that’s part of how you train pilots to do their work in the future,” said Anderson.
The university will also conduct an internal review including a look at its safety management program, which is overseen by a dedicated safety officer.
Transportation Safety Board updates investigation
The safety board announced Monday from Edmonton it will enter the next phase of the investigation now that the examination and documentation of the wreckage scene are complete.
So far the board has determined a Tecnam P2006T twin-engine aircraft, operated by MRU departed the Calgary/Springbank Airport on Feb. 13 at 4:35 p.m. where the plane climbed 8,000 feet above sea level progressing to the northwest. About 30 minutes after departure, the radar return from the aircraft was recorded at 7,900 feet above sea level.
The last radar return was 0.13 nautical miles southeast of the accident site location. The aircraft hit the ground 32 nautical miles northwest of the Springbank airport.
All major aircraft components were located at the accident site, but were destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact fire.
The next phase will involve investigators examining the engine and propellers, aircraft maintenance records and reconstructing events to learn more about the accident over the coming weeks.
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