Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says they don’t know the exact cause of a plane crash last year that killed two much-loved MRU flight instructors, Jeff Bird and Reyn Johnson.

According to the TSB report, after taking off from Springbank Airport last February 13, Johnson and Bird spun out of control during a stall exercise in a Tecnam P2006T aircraft for “unknown reasons.” After they regained control, they were too close to the ground to recover from the dive.

The report notes that MRU’s training material listed two stall recovery techniques even though Transport Canada recommends only one. As a result, the aviation program revised its multi-engine operating procedures.

Elizabeth Evans, dean of MRU’s faculty of business and communications studies, said the aviation program will learn from the tragedy.

“We will carefully review the TSB report to see where we can further enhance the aviation program,” Evans said “(The results of the report) mean we will be spreading a very broad net to ensure all safety aspects of our program are looked at and reviewed and continued to be developed.”

Elizabeth Evans, dean of MRU’s faculty of business and communications studies, said the aviation program will continue to improve its safety measures. Photo by Paul McAleer.

According to the report, the aviation program responded to the tragedy in numerous ways, including voluntarily grounding its two Tecnam planes until the report was released and purchasing a Piper Seneca twin-engine aircraft instead. The two Tecnams will now be sold.

Evans said it will be a continuous process when it comes to enhancing the program’s safety measures.

“We have initiated a revised altitude requirement that all manoeuvres are done at 4,000 ft. or higher above terrain – that is certainly well above the standard expectation from Transport Canada,” she said. “We’ve also been working very closely in our safety management system and with our safety management officer to explore new software and technology that can support us in terms of understanding and helping teach our students.”

One possible avenue involves using iPads to monitor flights, serving as an instructional tool as well as a safety measure.

“We will continue to underline and evolve our safety procedures, erring on the side of supreme caution as we continue to focus on being one of the leading aviation programs in Canada,” Evans said.

Brendan Martin, president of the Aviation Student Executive, said the support from the aviation community, MRU’s mental health resources and the kinship within the program helped the students recover from the tragedy.

To honour Bird and Johnson, the aviation students raised money to create these model planes. Photo by Paul McAleer.

He said both Bird and Johnson had personalities that would light up any room they were in.

The aviation students took a break from flying after the crash, but Martin said the best way to honour their legacy was to step back in the cockpit and continue their training.

“It is a love and passion that we all share and for us, it was really getting back into that plane that was the best way we could honour Reyn and Jeff,” he said.

pmcaleer@cjournal.ca