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Buffalo Kugaaruk incident shows rules confuse pilots, says TSB


An April 2020 incident in which a Buffalo Airways flight landed off the runway in Kugaaruk demonstrates that pilots struggle to follow visibility rules in certain landing conditions, top safety officials say.

Issuing a report on the incident on Tuesday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada – or TSB – said the crew of two, who weren’t injured, landed the plane too close to the right edge of the runway in tricky conditions.

“When the right landing gear impacted the deeper snow along the runway edge, the aircraft veered to the right and departed the runway surface,” the report found. There was no fire but the aircraft, a Beechcraft King Air A100, was badly damaged.

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Because the Nunavut community’s airfield has no approach ban – one means of determining whether it’s safe to land, involving a calculation of minimum ground visibility – the pilots continued the landing in blowing snow, even though visibility was below the Kugaaruk airstrip’s separately calculated minimum operating visibility.

“The flight crew believed that the lack of an approach ban permitted a landing,” the TSB found.

The report concluded: “The rules that govern instrument approaches in Canada are too complex, confusing, and ineffective at preventing pilots from conducting approaches that are not allowed, or banned, because they are below the minimum weather limits.”

The safety board said it had already asked Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible, to “review and simplify operating minima for approaches and landings at Canadian aerodromes” and do a better job of enforcing them.

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The TSB said Transport Canada had promised an industry working group to update regulations and guidance.

“Until these recommendations are fully addressed, there remains a risk that flight crews will initiate, or continue, approaches in weather conditions that do not permit a safe landing,” the TSB declared.

The safety board said Buffalo Airways had since surveyed its pilots on “knowledge and understanding of aerodrome visibility restrictions” and how they applied in different conditions. That survey, said the TSB, “revealed there were misunderstandings” about how visibility rules are applied.

More guidance was added to Buffalo’s flight simulator training manual and is now regularly reviewed by pilots, the board said.

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