Collisions with land and water

This video discusses collisions with land and water, which is one of the nine safety issues identified by the Transportation Safety Board as posing the greatest risk to Canadians. To find out more about these safety issues, see the Watchlist 2012.

Transcript of the video

Collisions with land and water

Advancing safety is at the core of what we do at the Transportation Safety Board. Our Watchlist—updated in June 2012—is the result of hundreds of investigations and countless hours of accident analysis. It identifies the issues that pose the greatest risk to Canadians and our transportation system. Aircraft colliding with land and water is one of those key issues.

Flying an aircraft is a complicated task. Pilots need to know what they're doing and where they are at all times. That means knowing how fast, how high, and where the aircraft is in relation to terrain that may or may not be visible.

Controlled flight into terrain is what happens when an otherwise sound aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water, or an obstacle. An aircraft could, for example, end up in the wrong place, or on the wrong course, or at the wrong altitude. And often, pilots aren't aware of what's gone wrong until it's too late.

Darkness, fog, snow and rain can affect visibility, which in turn affects a pilot's ability to understand surroundings. Fatigue or inexperience can impair judgment. Checklists or conversations may be distracting. About once a month, these factors combine to produce a fatal recipe for disaster.

Between 2000 and 2009, there were 129 of these collisions in Canada. That's just 5% of aviation accidents, but with 128 deaths, it's almost 25% of all fatalities.

What's needed are more defences. Warning systems already used on large commercial aircraft can also be installed on smaller aircraft to alert pilots if they come too close to the ground. And other resources, such as training materials developed by the Flight Safety Foundation—a leader in aviation safety—give pilots and companies practical ways to help prevent collisions with land and water.

But until this happens, until change comes and pilots have the tools they need to reduce these accidents, collisions with land and water will remain a serious concern on our Watchlist.