July 2019 deadliest month in Canadian aviation in more than 15 years

The wreckage of a Cessna Caravan lies where it crashed on Addenbroke Island on the coast of British Columbia (photo: 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron).

July 2019 will go down as the deadliest month in Canadian aviation in more than 15 years, surpassing the 20 deaths recorded in August 2006, according to data compiled by Western Aviation News.

At least 22 people have died in plane crashes in Canada in July, another 13 people have been injured, some of them critically. The latest death was confirmed by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton. The pilot of a Beechcraft Bonanza died when his plane crashed Wednesday, the last day of the month, near Val d’Or, Quebec. The crash site and the pilot’s body were found Friday after an extensive search.

Two of the helicopters helping in the search for a missing pilot near Val d’Or, Quebec (photo: JRCC Trenton).

It all adds up to a black month for an aviation industry that is otherwise growing safer by the year.

Transportation Safety Board responds to eight crashes in a month

The Transportation Safety Board – the agency that investigates serious aviation accidents in Canada – has dispatched investigators to eight accidents in July, compared to only four deployments in June. It is not unusual for the TSB to be busier in the summer, when nicer weather leads to a greater number of aircraft in the air for pleasure or holiday excursions.

The number of people injured or killed also compares unfavourably with July 2018, when six people were killed in plane crashes, and 16 injured, according to records filed with the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System.

The crashes range in severity from the death of a pilot killed at the controls of his amateur-built Zenith CH-750, to seven people who were presumably killed when their de Havilland Beaver float plane crashed into the remote Mistastin Lake in Labrador.

The seven were on a fishing trip aboard an Air Saguenay flight. Four of the bodies have been recovered, and the Canadian military has been called in to help locate the other victims.

“The crash of the Air Saguenay flight at Mistastin Lake is a terrible tragedy,” said Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale in a statement announcing the military aid.

“I have accepted their formal request for federal assistance, including equipment and personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces that are able to detect and recover remains and other items at underwater depth levels found in Mistastin Lake.”

A Cessna 150J is pulled from the water after a crash near Jasper, Alberta (photo: Transportation Safety Board).

The Mistastin Lake crash ranks as the fourth-deadliest crash in the past 25 years in Canada. The deadliest crash dates to 2009, when a Sikorsky helicopter crashed east of St. John’s, Newfoundland, en route to an offshore oil platform. Seventeen people were killed in the disaster, one man survived.

In the most recent crash, four people were killed and five people injured when their Cessna Caravan on a fishing charter crashed on Addenbroke Island, along a remote stretch of the British Columbia coast. Photos of the crash site provided by rescue crews show the float plane went down in a heavily wooded area.

DatePlaneIncident details
Jul 1UltralightTwo men were killed when their ultralight aircraft crashed into an orchard in Rougemont, Quebec.
Jul 4Zenith STOL CH-750The pilot was killed when his amateur-built aircraft crashed in a corn field.
Jul 10Robinson R44 helicopterA father and son were killed when their Robinson R44 crashed during a fishing trip in Lac Valtrie, Quebec.
Jul 11de Havilland DHC-2 BeaverTwo employees of Hawk Air were killed when their DHC-2 Beaver float plane crashed near Hawk Junction, Ontario.
Jul 16de Havilland DHC-2 BeaverSeven men were presumed killed when their Air Saguenay DHC-2 Beaver crashed in Mistastin Lake, Labrador.
Jul 21Cessna 150JA passenger was killed when a Cessna 150J crashed shortly after takeoff from Jasper, Alberta.
Jul 26Cessna 182 and Schleicher ASK 21An instructor and student were killed near Black Diamond, Alberta when their Schleicher ASK 21 glider collided with the tow plane.
Jul 27Cessna 208 CaravanFour people were killed and five injured when their Cessna 208 float plane crashed on Addenbroke Island, along the British Columbia coast.
Source: Transportation Safety Board

The rash of crashes belies an encouraging trend in Canadian aviation: it’s getting safer, despite an increasing number of planes – and people – in the air.

“The downward trend in aviation accidents over the last 10 years continued in 2018,” writes the TSB in its most recent annual report to Parliament. “During the year, 201 accidents were reported to the TSB. This number represents a 19% reduction from 2017, and is 25% below the annual average of 267 accidents recorded from 2008 to 2017.”

That annual average of 267 accidents hides a declining trend in the number of crashes when compared to the growth of aviation. Since 2008, the rate of accidents per 100,000 hours flown in Canada has fallen from a high of 6.3 in 2009, to 3.9 last year.

July 2019 will go down as particularly deadly, especially compared to all of 2018, when 38 people died. That was well below the average number of deaths in aviation accidents over the past decade, 55.

The data show that 859 people have died in plane crashes involving Canadian aircraft or in the country since 2004, including this month’s mishaps.