CONSTANCE BAY – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued a report Wednesday (Nov. 18) based on its investigation of a mid-air collision involving two spall airplanes over Constance Bay on June 14.

The collision involved two privately registered airplanes, a Champion 7GCB and a Cessna 172M. West Carleton Online eyewitness reports stated bystanders witnessing one of the planes spin down in the Ottawa River. The other was able to land safely at nearby Arnprior Airport. The lone pilot that crash-landed in the river suffered only minor injuries.

The Champion was equipped with floats and had departed Golden Lake, ON in the afternoon on its way to the Constance Lake Water Aerodrome.

According to the TSB, the pilot, who was alone in the plane, was following all communication requirements and had made the plane’s route known, making a final position report after passing Mohr Island.

The Cessna, carrying a pilot and three passengers and departing from the Arnprior Airport, headed east of Constance Bay.

“After making a few sightseeing orbits over an area just east of Fitzroy Harbour, the Cessna flew a track of approximately 050° true, parallel to Galetta Side Road, towards Buckham’s Bay, on the Ottawa River,” the report reads. “At approximately 2:46 p.m., the two aircraft collided while flying over the Ottawa River near Buckham’s Bay, approximately 12 nautical miles east-northeast of the Arnprior Airport.

“The Champion sustained damage to the tail, entered a descending left-hand turn, struck the water, and overturned. The pilot egressed from the aircraft and was rescued by nearby boaters. The pilot received minor injuries.

“The Cessna sustained damage to the propeller, nose wheel fairing and engine cowl. The pilot of the Cessna saw the Champion aircraft strike the water. He flew a few orbits to confirm the pilot of the Champion had been rescued and transmitted a Mayday call. He then flew back to (the Arnprior Airport) and landed without further incident.”

Both pilots were certified and qualified for the flights there were taking. The pilot of the Champion had almost ,1200 hours of flight time while the Cessna pilot had more than 6,000 hours.

“Records indicate that both aircraft were certified, equipped and maintained in accordance with existing regulations and approved procedures,” the report said.

The damage to the tail of the Champion caused by two propeller strikes was extensive enough for the pilot to lose the ability to control the aircraft.

“He was, however, able to control the pitch of the aircraft using engine power,” the report said. “Increasing the engine power would pitch the nose of the aircraft up, while decreasing it would pitch the nose down.”

The damage to the Cessna consisted of some scraping and paint marks on both propeller blades, a damaged front wheel fairing, and some damage to the left-hand engine cowl and lower left-hand portion of the fuselage immediately aft of the firewall.

“The damage did not lead to any control issues for the pilot,” the report said.

The collision occurred in what is known as Class G uncontrolled airspace “within which air traffic control has neither the authority nor the responsibility to exercise control over air traffic.”

The area where the collision occurred is designated as a training area below 4000 feet within the Ottawa terminal control area. 

Both pilots were familiar with the local area and indicated they had made a position report on 123.35 MHz as they entered the designated training area,” the report said. “However, neither pilot recalled hearing any radio transmissions concerning other aircraft in their immediate vicinity.”

The pilot of the Champion was trained in underwater egress and was able to escape his inverted and partially submerged seaplane. He was wearing a personal floatation device at the time of the crash but didn’t bother to inflate it he was so secure in his imminent rescue by nearby boaters.

Neither aircraft were equipped with aircraft collision avoidance system technology and neither was it required by authorities.

The TSB says it takes roughly 12-and-a-half seconds from when a pilot visually recognized a threat and take evasive action.

The report does not lay blame with either pilot and says the mid-air collision was a circumstance of the limitations of flying suing daytime visual flight rules.

“Neither pilot saw the other aircraft prior to the mid-air collision, partly owing to the inherent limitations of the see-and-avoid principle,” the report said. “Relying solely on visual detection increases the risk of collision while in uncontrolled airspace. Pilots are strongly encouraged to broadcast their intentions and maintain a listening watch while operating in uncontrolled airspace in accordance with Transport Canada’s VFR communications procedures, even though it is not mandatory for them to do so. There are a number of airborne collision avoidance systems currently available, some of which are specifically designed for the general aviation market. These technologies offer the potential to significantly reduce the risk of mid-air collisions.”