March 14, 2019

“New Float Plane Regulations Don’t Go Far Enough”


Last week we reported in eFlight that Transport Canada gave notice that it was going to require commercial operators to equip passengers with personal flotation devices (PFDs) on seaplanes carrying up to nine passengers, and carry them on board seaplanes carrying 10 or more passengers.

However, retired Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigator Bill Yearwood, who investigated the 2009 fatal Beaver float plane crash off B.C.’s Saturna Island in 2009 with the loss of six lives, says that the new regulations do not go far enough.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve finally gotten something, we’ve been advocating for at least 20 years to get life jackets on people,” said Yearwood. He added, however, that “Getting better at emergency exit doors was the key recommendation.”

Patrick Morrissey, husband of Saturna Island crash victim Kerry Morrissey, said, “I’m happy with [the new regulations] but sad they didn’t go all the way.” He added, “Pop-out windows, more intuitive door handles, those are still critical as part of the accident path that progresses as part of a float plane crash.”

Yearwood said, “We’ve got to get out of the aircraft and so many people drown in the aircraft, in this case that was it, they didn’t die from impact, they died because they drowned, trapped in the aircraft.”

Yearwood said he believes float planes should be required to have pop-out windows but said  that many operators resist due to the cost. “If you think safety’s expensive, try an accident,” he said.

Some float plane operators, such as Harbour Air, have installed pop-out windows voluntarily.