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First Air crew accidently flew plane into hill: TSB

Jan. 6, 2012, Resolute, Nunavut - A First Air crew had aborted an attempt to land its jetliner just seconds before it crashed into a hill near the Resolute airport in Nunavut, killing 12 people on board.


January 6, 2012
By The Canadian Press

An interim report released Thursday by the Transportation Safety Board says an initial examination of the wreckage of the chartered 737 turned up no mechanical problems. The board classifies the crash last August as a "controlled flight into terrain" accident.

The board's report does confirm that the weather was bad at the time and pilots had initiated a "go-around" two seconds before the plane crashed 1.6 kilometres from the airport's runway.

A go-around can happen for several reasons, including a missed approach or worsening weather. The plane goes back up in the air to try landing again. The report does not say what led the pilots to initiate the procedure.

Shortly after the disaster, RCMP talked with one of three survivors, a seven-year-old girl. She revealed the plane was flying along just fine before it crashed and burst into flames. The girl's six-year-old sister and all four crew were among the dead.

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The report said the plane's engines and the airport's ground-based equipment were working properly.

There was a 90-metre cloud ceiling and drizzling rain. Fog limited visibility to less than eight kilometres.

Due to the conditions, the crew had no choice but to land the plane using its navigational instruments, said the report.

The plane's landing gear was down and locked. The landing checklist was complete.

The report did not say when the final investigation into the crash would be finished.

"Aircraft navigation in the final phase of flight is certainly a key area that the investigation team is pursuing," said the report.

"To that end, the TSB Engineering Laboratory, assisted by specialists of the aircraft and components manufacturers, is conducting exhaustive testing on the aircraft's navigational equipment."

The jet from Yellowknife was on a routine trip for a local hotel to bring food and passengers north. Soldiers performing a military exercise, preparing for a mock plane crash, rushed to the site to help.