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Watchlist 2010

Collisions with land and water

Added to Watchlist on August 16, 2010


Fatalities continue to occur when planes collide with land and water while under crew control.


Collision with land and water occurs when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the pilot is inadvertently flown into the ground, water, or an obstacle. In these cases, pilots are unaware of the danger until it is too late.

This type of accident often happens when visibility is low, at night, or during poor weather. Such conditions reduce a pilot's situational awareness of surroundings and make it difficult to tell whether the aircraft is too close to the ground. The risk is even greater for small aircraft, which venture further into remote wilderness or into mountainous terrain but are not required to have the same ground proximity warning equipment as large airliners.

Between 2000 and 2009, there have been 129 accidents of this type in Canada, resulting in 128 fatalities. Collisions with land and water account for 5% of accidents but nearly 25% of all fatalities.


The TSB has investigated numerous collisions with land and waterFootnote 1 and has identified deficiencies, made findings, and issued recommendations such as installing ground proximity warning systems in smaller aircraft. Although some action has been taken, more needs to be done.

Advances in technology have resulted in cockpit equipment that can significantly improve a pilot's situational awareness. Some of this technology is now cost effective for small aircraft. Without this technology, passengers and crews continue to be at risk.