A Harbour Air de Havilland single Otter floatplane.

A Harbour Air de Havilland single Otter floatplane.

Review urges PFDs for floatplane trips

Airlines worry passengers may get trapped by inflating vests before escaping a crash

All floatplane passengers and crew should be required to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) throughout the flight, according to recommendations from the B.C. Coroners Service.

The findings come from a coroners’ death panel review into seaplane safety after four crashes on the B.C. coast killed 23 people from 2005 to 2009.

The report recommends Transport Canada require PFD use at each stage of the flight by all on board and that seaplanes be equipped with emergency exits allowing rapid escape in water.

It says PFDs stored under a seat are extremely hard to retrieve and don in the critical seconds after a crash when occupants are trying to escape a submerged aircraft.

But commercial floatplane operators are divided on the use of life vests throughout flights.

Harbour Air/Westcoast Air executive vice-president Randy Wright said he and others in the industry fear a panicked passenger might inflate a PFD inside a submerged plane, trapping himself and others.

“You’ve got to get people out with the life jackets and without inflating it inside or they’ll trap themselves,” he said.

Current PFDs in use would not hold up to continuous wear either, the panel heard.

But the report argues those concerns can be addressed and don’t detract from the overall life-saving potential of mandatory life vest use.

Transport Canada has the final say on whether PFD use would be required and Wright said he is working with federal authorities on how it might be done.

The 19 recommendations also call for other upgrades, including satellite tracking systems and power shut-off switches to reduce the chance of fire after a crash.

Wright said Harbour Air has already implemented many recommendations, including lighted strips leading to exits and pop-out windows to aid escape.

More than 200 people died in a total of 111 fatal plane crashes in B.C. during the 2000s. Commercial flights accounted for more than a third of the incidents.

Three of the four crashes considered in the review involved flights that were carrying workers to remote job sites on the coast.

Five died in a crash in the Knight Inlet area in 2005, another five perished in 2008 when a plane en route to a logging operation hit a steep slope near Port Hardy and another seven heading that same year to a worksite at Toba Inlet died when their plane crashed at South Thormanby Island.

In 2009, six more passengers died when a commercial flight hit the water at Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island.

The pilot and a seventh passenger escaped from that rapidly sinking plane, but the  other occupants drowned inside. Only two of the four doors could be opened.

“Of the seven life vests available onboard, five had remained in their stowage pouches under the seats, while two were found outside of their pouches, but had not been utilized,” the report says.

Sites of four floatplane crashes between 2005 to 2009 that were the subject of the review.

 

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)
Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read