Airline passes Transport Canada review after February plane crash

Island Express Air had certificate suspended after incident in Abbotsford

An airline that had its operator certificate suspended earlier this year after one of its planes crashed in a field in Abbotsford has passed what Transport Canada says was a thorough review of its operations.

Kevin Varey, operations manager for Island Express Air, says that since the incident on Feb. 23, the airline has done “an immense amount of maintenance and overhaul” of its planes and has a new management team and new owners on board.

“We did everything to comply with Transport Canada over and above the standard,” he said.

Transport Canada reinstated the airline’s air operator certificate on June 26 after what it says was a “robust review of the company’s operations.”

Since then, Island Express Air has had two more incidents, according to Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS).

But Varey said CADORS is a system that records every circumstance that an airline experiences, no matter how minor in nature. He said neither incident was of serious consequence.

The first incident occurred on July 2, when a Piper PA-31 travelled from Abbotsford International Airport and landed at Victoria International, where a controller noticed that the luggage door of the plane was open, according to CADORS.

But Varey said it was only a latch that was open, not the entire door.

The second incident was on July 16 and involved a 1976 Beechcraft King Air B100, which experienced smoke in the cockpit soon after taking off, according to Transport Canada.

The pilot declared an emergency, requested a return to Abbotsford Airport and landed safely, the report states.

Varey said this incident was the result of a “bleed air leak” – a common issue on the King Air – during a training flight, and the pilot declared an emergency only as a precautionary measure.

There were no passengers on board, and at no time was anyone in danger, he said.

Island Express Air had its air operator certificate suspended by Transport Canada on Feb. 28 – five days after a California-bound Beechcraft King Air B100 crashed in a raspberry field near Walmsley Avenue and Clearbrook Road.

The pilot and four of nine passengers on board sustained injuries, and the plane was destroyed, according to a follow-up report in April from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

Varey said the aircraft was occupied by a former owner of the airline and his family members.

The TSB stated in its report that the plane had been towed outside of its hangar without being treated with anti-ice fluid.

The agency said that once the plane was cleared for takeoff, it had been exposed to snow and freezing conditions for 13 minutes.

“After becoming airborne, the aircraft experienced power and control issues shortly after the landing gear was retracted. The aircraft collided with terrain within the airport perimeter,” the TSB stated.

Varey said, coincidentally, the new owners had just signed their “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) to buy the airline on the same day of the crash. The closing date for the agreement was on Wednesday of this week.

Varey also came on board the day of the crash. He said at the time the MOU was signed, the new team had already been planning to revamp the airline, which began almost 10 years ago.

He said the airline has undergone a complete restructuring, and is now looking forward to expanding with more planes and more destinations in the near feature.

The airline offers flights from Abbotsford, Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver and Qualicum Beach.

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