Investigators still probing cause of Blackfalds biplane crash

Investigators hoping on-board instruments yield clues to cause of Blackfalds plane crash in October.


Advocate staff

Investigators hope GPS and instrument data will shed more light on the cause of a biplane crash in Blackfalds last month.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s Fred Burow said plane components were sent to Ottawa for further analysis and results have not yet come back.

The single-seat kit-built aerobatic Steen Skybolt biplane went down around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in Blackfalds, narrowly missing nearby homes and businesses. Mark Werner, 57, a skilled aerobatic pilot from Lacombe, died at the scene.

Burow said the plane does not carry the so-called “black box” flight data recorders but other data recorded by instruments and a GPS unit that was on board may provide important information. The GPS unit was damaged and the memory chip has been taken out to see if it will provide some clues.

“If the electronics that were on board captured the data that will be our best source. It will tell us a lot of information,” said Burow, senior investigator operations for the safety board at its regional office in Edmonton.

GPS units can provide snapshots every two to 10 seconds of heading, altitude, air speed and location.

“You can actually plot those on Google Earth and you can recreate a flight path, just from one of those GPS’s, depending on the model.”

The aircraft was also equipped with an electronic engine monitoring system that could provide valuable information.

If the hoped-for data isn’t available, investigators will take the wreckage part piece by piece in its Edmonton warehouse.

Investigators know the plane came in at a very steep angle because of the small debris field. The initial investigation confirmed that the wreckage was intact and nothing had fallen off the plane before it crashed. There was also enough fuel in the plane, which had left Lacombe airport shortly before the crash.

There were many witnesses to the crash and its immediate aftermath. The safety board was still getting calls a month after, he said.

At the time of the crash, RCMP said witnesses reported the plane appeared to be having engine trouble.

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