Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fire whirl caused fatal air tanker crash: TSB

By The Canadian Press   

Headlines News

Aug. 12, 2016, Edmonton - A tornado-like blast of flames caused an air tanker to crash last spring while fighting a wildfire in northeastern Alberta, killing the pilot.

The Transportation Safety Board says the pilot could not see the “fire whirl” after making a low altitude drop of water and foam on the fire near Cold Lake on May 22, 2015.

Investigators say severe turbulence forced the nose of the single-engine Conair Air AT-802A float plane up, the plane rolled and then crashed.

The report says if pilots aren’t trained to deal with the dangers of wildfires there is a risk they will fly into unsafe conditions.

It also found that not all types of restraint systems in planes protect pilots during severe turbulence.


The board says since the crash the Conair Group Inc. has trained its pilots about the dangers of flying near wildfires and has installed new pilot harnesses in AT-802A aircraft.

“The investigation determined that the aircraft had encountered a tornado-like event generated by the fire, which is known as a fire whirl,” The TSB said in a release Thursday.

“The aircraft’s low altitude while fighting the wildfire made recovery impossible, resulting in impact with terrain.”

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