October 20, 2022

Buildup of ice likely cause of fatal crash near Calgary

Jon Robinson

Accident site looking northwest (Image: TSB)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada on October 17 released its investigation report (A22W0027) into the April 22, 2022, in-flight icing and fatal collision with terrain involving a Mooney M20K aircraft near Springbank Airport, Calgary, Alberta.

The pilot of the aircraft, Michael James Wilton, was killed and a passenger was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Wilton was president of FlightSimple, an aircraft sales company.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) in its report explains the Mooney M20K departed Runway 35 at Calgary/Springbank Airport (CYBW) for a local round-robin flight on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan with the two pilots on board. The aircraft had recently been purchased, and the purpose of this flight was for the right-seat pilot to become familiar with operating the Mooney 231 and learn from the pilot-in-command, who was occupying the left seat and had experience on the aircraft type.

After takeoff, TSB explains the aircraft turned left toward the TURNY waypoint, climbing to a cruising altitude of 9000 feet above sea level (ASL). It flew over High River Aerodrome (CEN4), Alberta, and headed northeast toward the EBGAL waypoint. The aircraft, explains TSB, then turned left and proceeded back toward the TURNY waypoint. When the aircraft was flying just northwest of Okotoks (CFX2), Alberta, at an altitude of approximately 8000 feet ASL, it turned slightly to the right to cross the initial approach waypoint (SEKEM) and return to CYBW for an instrument approach and landing on Runway 35. 

Before crossing SEKEM, TSB explains the pilot-in-command contacted air traffic services (ATS) and requested a lower altitude because the aircraft was “picking up a little ice.” ATS cleared the aircraft to descend, with a restriction of not below 6200 feet ASL. 

The aircraft crossed SEKEM at an altitude of 6100 feet ASL, according to TSB, travelling at a ground speed of 97 knots. TSB explains the aircraft then crossed the step-down waypoint (XUBUM) at an altitude of 5900 feet ASL, travelling at a ground speed of 114 knots, and crossed the final approach waypoint (TARTI) at an altitude of 5800 feet ASL, approximately 500 feet above the vertical path angle and still travelling at a ground speed of 114 knots.

 The aircraft, according to TSB, continued to descend and passed below the vertical path and ultimately below the decision altitude of 4190 feet ASL. It then struck the bank of a ditch on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway, 0.6 nautical miles (NM) south of the threshold of the runway, according to the TSB report, and slid to a halt in a pasture. The pilot-in-command was fatally injured from the impact forces.