August 22, 2019

TSB Repeats Recommendation to Change Night Visual Flight Rules


In an investigation report into a helicopter crash in rural Ontario last March that was released today, the Transportation Safety Board again recommends that Transport Canada – Civil Aviation (TCCA) amend the CARs to better define visual references when conduction flights under night VFR.

The recommendation (A18-08) was initially made after an investigation into the May, 2013 crash of a Sikorsky S-76A helicopter on a night VFR flight from Moosonee airport (CYMO), near the southwestern shore of James Bay in Ontario.

In response to the TSB’s recommendation for the rule amendment, the TSB reports that TCCA is taking action to address the safety identified deficiencies and that regulatory development is currently underway, with proposed amendments to the CARs released for public consultation sometime before the end of this year.

Recommendation A18-08 was repeated in the investigation report released today of the Robinson R66 helicopter nighttime crash 18 nm northwest of Timmins airport (CYTS) in central-eastern Ontario last March, which led to two fatalities.

The R66 investigation report quotes from the turbine-powered R66’s Pilot’s Operating Handbook on the matter of losing outside visual reference while night flying:

“[the pilot] loses […] his ability to control the attitude of the helicopter. As helicopters are not inherently stable and have very high roll rates, the aircraft will quickly go out of control, resulting in a high velocity crash which is usually fatal.

Be sure you NEVER fly at night unless you have clear weather with unlimited or very high ceilings and plenty of celestial or ground lights for reference.”

The TSB report also mentions the following situations of non-compliance that were revealed during the investigation:

  • The pilot had not performed five night takeoffs and landings in the preceding six months, meaning he was not lawfully carrying his passenger;
  • The ELT, recently serviced, was installed in the ‘OFF’ position and therefore did not activate;
  • No flight plan or flight itinerary was filed, leading to a 36-hour delay in initiating a search (although the TSB report states that the crash was not survivable).

Both the full TSB report on the R66 crash and the recommendation to amend the CARs are appended below.