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Flight regulator releases details on fatal Cold Lake Air Show crash

Edmonton Journal logo Edmonton Journal 2018-01-06 Jonny Wakefield

A stunt pilot killed during a routine at the 2016 Cold Lake Air Show was in the middle of a low-altitude roll when the nose of his plane pitched toward the ground, a new report states. 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on Friday released an investigation brief detailing the July 17, 2016 crash that killed Calgary pilot Bruce Evans. 

Evans was flying a T-28B — a propeller plane built in 1954 to train U.S. navy pilots — when it slammed into the ground at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. 

The report makes no mention of pilot error or mechanical issues and is “not meant to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.” It does not make any findings about what caused the crash. 

Evans took off at around 1:40 p.m. for the 12-minute demonstration, which included a total of 15 stunts, the report states. The day was clear with low winds. 

About halfway through the flight, Evans substituted a slow roll for a lazy eight, followed by a “half-reverse Cuban” manoeuvre to reverse his position, the report states. It notes that it is “not unusual” for an aerobatic performer to change the order of their demonstration during flight.

The plane was flying right to left at about 500 feet — the minimum altitude at which Evans was certified to perform — and was entering a roll just before the centre of the performance airspace.

“As the aircraft reached the inverted position, the roll stopped and the nose began to pitch toward the ground,” the report states. “The aircraft elevator was seen to move to full-up deflection as the aircraft continued toward the ground in an arc until its collision with terrain, in a near-vertical position with a slight right roll.”

Witnesses reported hearing a bang and seeing a plume of dust as the plane hit the ground. Emergency crews were on scene in one minute and 34 seconds, while spectators were told to remain calm and stay in place. The remainder of the air show was cancelled shortly after. 

Based on the wreckage and photos and videos of the crash, as well as examination of the wreckage, investigators believe the plane’s engine and flight controls had been operating normally prior to impact.

The buildings near the crash site housed precision approach radar equipment and a backup power generator, as well as two 1,000-gallon propane tanks. There was no fire and none of the buildings were significantly damaged, although debris penetrated the wall of the backup generator building.

The Cold Lake Air Show was Evans’ first of the 2016 season, the report notes. Evans was an experienced pilot, with more than 4,000 hours of flying time, 461 hours of which were on the T-28B. 

A 59-year-old professional geologist, Evans had performed at air shows in Alaska, British Columbia and Edmonton during the 2015 season. A colleague remembered him as a careful flyer who kept an “immaculately” maintained aircraft.


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