February 28, 2019

TSB Cites ELT Issues in 2017 Mooney Crash


The Transportation Safety Board released an investigation report this week that looked into the November 25, 2017 crash of a Mooney 20D in British Columbia’s Glacier National Park that claimed the lives of the pilot and his passenger.

The VFR flight, which originated at Penticton airport (CYYF) in B.C. and was destined for Edmonton/Villeneuve airport (CZVL) in Alberta, crashed at around 15:27 hrs after the non-instrument-rated pilot encountered deteriorating weather conditions near Revelstoke. No ELT signal was detected.

No flight plan was filed with Nav Canada, nor was a weather briefing requested from them. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria was notified at 22:40 hrs that the aircraft was overdue. Weather hampered an immediate search but, when the weather improved, the search turned up nothing and was called off on December 5, 2017.

It was almost a year later, on September 10, 2018, that a passing helicopter noticed the wreckage approximately 26 nm northeast of Revelstoke airport (CYRV), and about 150 metres north of the Trans-Canada Highway in a heavily-forested hillside with a 25° slope.

The TSB investigators found the antenna for the 121.5 MHz ELT had detached and the ELT’s battery had been ejected, both due to crash impact forces. Investigators found that when the battery was reinserted, the ELT began to emit a signal, indicating that it was in the activated mode. However, it would not have been detected by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system , which only monitors newer, 406 MHz ELT signals.

The TSB report cited an earlier recommendation, issued in 2016, regarding ELT survivability:

“[That] the Department of Transport establish rigorous emergency locator transmitter (ELT) system crash survivability requirements that reduce the likelihood that an ELT system will be rendered inoperative as a result of impact forces sustained during an aviation occurrence.”

TSB Recommendation A16-05

In September, 2016, Transport Canada (TC) responded to this recommendation by stating that ELTs follow international standards, but that it is involved in an international committee tasked with updating the standards. The TSB assessed this response as ‘Satisfactory Intent’.

The report also addressed the issue of mandatory use of 406 MHz ELTs by citing a recommendation issued in 2016:

“[That] the Department of Transport require all Canadian-registered aircraft and foreign aircraft operating in Canada that require installation of an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) to be equipped with a 406 MHz ELT in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.”

TSB Recommendation A16-01

TC responded to this recommendation by stating it had begun the regulatory process to mandate the carriage of 406 MHz ELTs. The TSB also assessed this response as ‘Satisfactory Intent’.

The full TSB report can be found here.

COPA continues to advocate for the use of satellite-based ADS-B OUT technology to replace ELTs in aircraft. Further details on COPA’s position can be found here.