Ornge has responded to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigation report into the fatal crash of one of its air ambulances on 31 May 2013. The Ontario, Canada-based organisation has reaffirmed its commitment to crew and patient safety.
The Sikorsky S-76A helicopter crashed approximately one nautical mile from its take-off point after being called upon to assist a patient transport. It had only been airborne for 23 seconds. All four crew members, including captain Don Filliter, first officer Jacques Dupuy and the two paramedics, Chris Snowball and Dustin Dagenais, were killed by the impact of the crash and ensuing fire.
TSB chairwoman Kathy Fox claimed that the crash went ‘beyond the actions of a single flight crew’, and the board has issued Ornge with 14 recommendations to address deficiencies in regulatory oversight, flight rules and aircraft equipment after completing its investigation.
However, Ornge was quick to act, starting a full review of its safety processes immediately after the crash. The air ambulance provider said it has worked in close co-operation with the TSB throughout the investigative process and has already implemented a number of safety actions to help ‘minimise risk’.
Importantly, Ornge has retired the Sikorsky S-76A from its provincial airbase fleet and has replaced it with the AW139 helicopter, a more modern vehicle that has more advanced avionics, safety equipment and meets the highest certification standard, said the organisation. Ornge started the transition to the new craft back in 2014. It also aims to equip its entire fleet with night vision goggles by the end of 2017.
On top of this, the air ambulance provider has created a Proficiency Flying Programme which requires pilots to conduct certain specific exercises and complete a minimum flight time within a 90-day period. This programme exceeds what is required by regulation, said Ornge. Key personnel with more extensive rotor-wing experience have joined Ornge’s aviation management team to help lend their advice to safety, maintenance and training issues.
Although much progress has been made ‘there are still a number of gaps that need to be addressed’, according to chairwoman Fox.
Dr Andrew McCallum, president and CEO of Ornge, said: “We deeply regret the loss of our dear colleagues who died in service to the Ontario public, and our thoughts remain with their family members. We will continue to honour the memory of the Moosonee crew with an unwavering commitment to protecting the safety of our patients, paramedics and pilots.”
He added: “With the investigation now complete, we will review and study the recommendations and findings outlined in the report carefully as we strive to be industry leaders in safety.”
You can find the full investigation report here.