Wings Magazine

Bearskin Airlines crash: Pilot always wanted to fly

Nov. 15, 2013, Mississauga, Ont. - The family of one of the pilots who died in a Bearskin Airlines crash in northern Ontario says he wanted to fly planes from an early age.

November 15, 2013  By The Toronto Star

From his early roots in India to his life growing up in Mississauga, Aniruddh Sawant thought about little else but flying.


On his Twitter page, the 25-year-old described his interests this way: “Make music. Fly planes. Eat food. Repeat.”



Sawant and Captain
Peter Traczuk, 34, were among five people to die Sunday when the
twin-engine Metro Fairchild turboprop crashed after declaring an
emergency on approach to the airport in Red Lake, Ont.


Two passengers survived.

Younger brother, Sid Sawant, said music and flying were Aniruddh’s passions.


“We used to joke around that he learned to fly before he could drive,” Sid told the Star on Tuesday.


The other pilot was a married father of three from Winnipeg. Friends are offering condolences to his family on Facebook.


Sawant’s brother tweeted the loss
of his only sibling. “To the greatest brother that ever lived, may your
spirit never come down from the heavens. Aniruddh Sawant March 11
1988-November 10 2013.”


Bearskin Airlines
Flight 311 had taken off from Sioux Lookout on time for the half-hour
flight to Red Lake, which is about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder
Bay. The flight was to continue to Winnipeg.


The plane appeared to
be operating normally until the pilots contacted the tower with an
emergency about 10 minutes before it was due to land, according to the
Transportation Safety Board.


The plane crashed at
6:30 p.m. local time Sunday about three kilometres south of the airport,
taking out hydro poles and bursting into flames in a rugged, heavily
wooded area.


There were snow showers at the time of the crash.


Two passengers from Winnipeg who were sitting in the rear of the 19-seat turboprop survived.

A 29-year-old man
pulled a 50-year-old woman to safety before flames engulfed the
aircraft, according to the Ontario Provincial Police.


Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board are in Red Lake trying to piece together the cause of the crash.


They have recovered the flight-data recorder (black box) from the wreckage and it will be shipped to the lab in Ottawa.


The engines will also be removed for examination.


The search is now on for the cockpit voice recorder.


Both pilots were described as experienced members of Bearskin Airlines by executive vice-president Cliff Friesen.


Sawant, who had
relocated to Winnipeg to work for Bearskin, spent his teen years in
Mississauga after the family moved to Canada about 18 years ago.


He went to Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga and enrolled in the arts, which kindled his love of music.


Through high school, he played in rock band as a drummer and also worked as a DJ.

When he wasn’t flying, he was producing electronic dance music for singers and bands such as Dusty Starr.


Although single, he was “married to his music,” his brother Sid explained.


“He was good. I was his harshest critic and I told him that the music career was worth looking into.”


Sawant was a long-time
member of the 845 Avro Arrow Squadron air-cadet program in

until he was 18, when he obtained both his gliders pilots licence and
his private pilots licence.


He climbed all the way to warrant officer, second-class.


Andrew Thomson, major
commanding officer for the squadron in Mississauga, said Sawant was a
highly regarded member and a hard worker.


“He made us very proud
and will always be fondly remembered by our staff and those in the
program who had the honour and privilege of knowing him,” he said.


In 2009, Sawant got
his diploma in aviation technology at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie
and during his studies he worked as a dispatcher and ground handler for
the college’s hangar.


From August 2009 to July 2010, he was a flight instructor for the Maylan Flight Academy in London, Ont.


In February 2011, he returned to Sault College as a flight instructor until he joined Bearskin Airlines on June 18, 2012.


“He wanted to be a pilot forever,” his brother said. “Even when he was a little kid, he wanted to fly.”


Alan Gooderham, who
taught him basic electrical and electronics circuits that apply to the
aircraft industry at Sault College, remembered Sawant as a soft-spoken,
quick-witted man who was always smiling.


“It was these traits
that helped him secure an instructor position at the college for a
time,” Gooderham said. “He was a class leader, well-liked by his peers
and instructors alike.”


Traczuk was originally from Keswick, Ont. He was hired by Bearskin Airlines in 2009.


He attended Cardinal
Carter Catholic High School in Aurora and then enrolled in Seneca
College in King City to study aviation management.


He graduated in 2005 and took a job as an airport supervisor at Holland Landing Airpark.


After that, Traczuk worked as a first officer in Barrick Gold’s flight department in Smithers, B.C., for three years.


In 2008, he was made captain for Keystone Air Service of Winnipeg and was hired by Bearskin in 2009.


Bearskin Airlines made him a first officer in 2010 in Thunder Bay and promoted him to captain in 2012, based in Winnipeg.


The names of the three
dead passengers from Red Lake — a 53-year-old woman, a 53-year-old man
and a 64-year-old woman — have not been released.


OPP Sgt. Shelley Garr
said that all five bodies are being flown to Toronto for a post-mortem
examination. Until the identities are confirmed, those names will not be


Friesen, executive vice-president of Bearskin Airlines, told the Star that counselling is being offered to the staff.


“A lot of the people
working the front desks and counters all knew these pilots quite well,
so it’s very tough for them,” he said.


Bearskin Airlines is based in Sioux Lookout and employs 300 people in Ontario and Manitoba.

Its fleet of 16 Metro Fairchild planes serves 18 destinations in the two provinces.


“We have an excellent safety record and we’re very proud of it,” Friesen said.


This was the second major accident for Bearskin Airlines since it began operations in 1963.

On May 1, 1995,
Bearskin Airlines flight 362, with a crew of two and one passenger on
board, was inbound to Sioux Lookout from Red Lake when it collided
mid-air with another plane carrying a pilot and four passengers.


All eight people perished.


The Transportation Safety Board determined that neither flight crew saw the other aircraft in time to avoid the collision.



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