Canada admits to weak regulation

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Transport Safety Board report into 2004 off-runway landing highlights deficiencies in visibility minima and lighting

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada says weaknesses in visibility regulations may have contributed to an off-runway landing by a First Air Boeing 737-200 on 25 February 2004.

In its final report on the accident, at Alberta’s Edmonton International airport, the TSB says specified visibility minima “may be deficient under certain weather conditions. In this case, the runway lighting available was inadequate for the conditions at the time of the incident,” the agency says.

The aircraft was also “not in the preferred autopilot mode for the approach” and crew rest guidelines from both the company and national regulators for switching between night and day flying were “insufficient”, it says.

As a result of the investigation, the TSB issued a safety information letter in May to Transport Canada, the national transport agency, expressing concern about airport lighting maintenance standards. Because of recommendations from a previous investigation, Transport Canada is also working on revising low-visibility approach rules to bring them into line with international standards.

Since the accident, First Air has revised its charter schedule and no longer allows crews to change from day to night flying on the same shift. The airline has also modified its operating procedures to ensure the correct autopilot mode is used in poor visibility.

The chartered First Air aircraft was returning from Lupin, Nunavut to Edmonton when the pilot tried to land in fog and early-morning darkness, with only runway edge lighting for guidance. The aircraft touched down left of the runway, travelling about 490m (1,600ft) before returning to the runway. No-one on board was injured.

ANDRZEJ JEZIORSKI/VANCOUVER