November 2, 2017

Drunk Pilot Might Have Committed Suicide


The captain of a Carson Air Metroliner that crashed north of Vancouver in 2015 was drunk and may have committed suicide and that’s prompted the Transportation Safety Board to recommend implementation of a government-mandated industry-wide substance abuse program.

Capt. Robert Brandt, 34, had a blood alcohol content of .24 when the Metro entered a steep dive, broke up in flight and crashed in the mountains six minutes into the early-morning flight to Prince George on April 13, 2015. He and First Officer Andrew Wang, 32, were killed.

Pilot incapacitation is being investigated as a cause, as is pitot-static malfunction and suicide.

The suicide scenario “involves a number of flight-specific factors that are consistent with an intentional act,” the accident report says.

The evidence for all three scenarios is circumstantial, however, since there was no flight data or cockpit voice recorder aboard the aircraft, something the TSB is recommending as a requirement for smaller commercial aircraft.

Other medical tests done on his body suggest he’d had been drinking large amounts of alcohol over a period of years. The TSB report said colleagues suspected he had a drinking problem and one employee had reported smelling alcohol on his breath on one occasion. He was being “monitored” by supervisors. No alcohol or any other intoxicating substances were found in Wang’s body.

In a news release, the TSB said a more robust system to detect and treat substance abuse in aviation employees is needed.

“In Canada, regulations and company rules prohibit flying while impaired, but they rely heavily on self-policing,” said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. “What is needed is a comprehensive substance abuse program that would include mandatory testing as well as complementary initiatives such as education, employee assistance, rehabilitation and peer support.”

Fox said employees won’t like being tested but their rights have to be balanced against the common good and the government has those powers under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.