July 29, 2020

Instrument Failure Cited by TSB in Fatal Gabriola Island Crash


On December 9, 2019, a Piper Aerostar was on an IFR flight to Nanaimo airport (CYCD) inbound from the U.S. While attempting to intercept the localizer, the pilot reported that he “just had a fail”. The aircraft changed altitudes, speeds and headings before spiralling out of control and crashing on the northern tip of Gabriola Island, located east of Nanaimo in British Columbia’s Georgia Strait. All three on board perished and the aircraft was destroyed.

Image credit: TSB

Weather conditions at CYCD six minutes before the crash (i.e. 18:00 PST) indicated calm winds, two statute miles of visibility in light drizzle and mist, and a ragged overcast ceiling of 400 feet above ground level. On that day, sunset was at 16:17 PST.

The twin-engine piston-powered aircraft was equipped with a positive pressure pneumatic system and a BendixKing KI 256 FCI (flight command indicator) attitude indicator, which was located in the centre of the left-side instrument panel. The aircraft was also equipped with an electrically driven BendixKing KI 825 horizontal situation indicator (HSI), which supplied data, including heading information, to a Garmin GNS 530W/430W. Heading information was also supplied to the aircraft’s autopilot.

TSB investigators were able to determine that the HSI had experienced a failure on November 22 and again on November 26. None of these anomalies were reported in the aircraft’s journey log as required by the CARs. The owner of the Aerostar had, however, made an appointment at an avionics shop on the B.C. mainland for the day after their planned arrival at Nanaimo.

The left seat was occupied by a pilot who had a private pilot licence (PPL) but no instrument flight rating (IFR). The right seat was occupied by the aircraft owner, who held an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) and an instrument rating. The TSB was unable to determine who was the pilot flying at the time of the accident.

See the full TSB report appended below for further information.

Upper image credit: Google Earth