Water bomber that crashed on lake during forest fire was overloaded, TSB report

Published on August 28, 2014

A water bomber flies over forest near Moosehead Lake, about 10 kilometres east of Labrador City June 24, 2013.
— Photo by Neil Simmons/Special to The Telegram

Halifax — A water bomber owned by the Newfoundland and Labrador government that crashed on Moosehead Lake last year took on too much water, which was a central cause in the plane failing to get airborne, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Thursday.

The aircraft owned by the government’s air service division came to rest upright on the lake and partially submerged, the board said in releasing its investigation report into the accident.

There were no injuries to the two crew members, but the board said the aircraft was destroyed.

The Bombardier CL-415 amphibious aircraft left Wabush on July 3, 2013, in mid-afternoon to fight a nearby forest fire.

A short time later, the water bomber touched down on Moosehead Lake to scoop a load of water. The safety board said about 40 seconds later, the captain initiated a left-hand turn and almost immediately lost control.

“The investigation also found that the flight crew was occupied with other flight activities during the scooping run and did not notice that the water quantity exceeded the predetermined limit until after the tanks had filled to capacity,” the board said in a news release. “The flight crew then decided to continue the takeoff with the aircraft in an overweight condition.”

The crew waited to be rescued by a boat from the top of the wing.

The board said its investigation also found a switch that controls probes used to scoop water from a lake was inadvertently moved to the auto position from manual. The switch is not included on the pilots’ checklist, although that has changed since the crash.

“If a checklist does not include a critical item, and flight crews are expected to rely on their memory, then there is a risk that the item will be missed and safety could be jeopardized,” the board said.

It said the government has made some safety changes since the crash, including to the way safety gear is stored and secured, and it has installed portable satellite telephones in its aircraft. Water bomber pilots and maintenance personnel will also get new training.