Wings Magazine

Sonicblue Airways owner loses lawsuit against TC

April 8, 2014, Vancouver - The owner of a British Columbia airline that went bankrupt following a crash that killed three people has lost his lawsuit against Transport Canada.

April 8, 2014  By The Canadian Press

Sonicblue Airways owner Ranjit Singh Gill sued the national safety
agency and two of its managers for negligence and "misfeasance in public
office" over the decision to suspend his operating certificate the day
after the Jan. 21, 2006 accident.


Gill claimed the agency had no grounds to do so and
supervisors Trevor Heryet and David Nowzek acted with "in excess of
their legal authority, with malice and in bad faith."



They showed reckless indifference to the facts
and the law, and they did so with the intent of causing irreparable
harm, Gill's lawyers argued in court.


Three people — including the
pilot and a three-month-old boy — died when the flight from Tofino, on
the west coast of Vancouver Island, lost power in mid-air en route to


The pilot crashed the single-engine Cessna
Caravan into the trees as he attempted a landing on a logging road. Five
other passengers were seriously injured.


A Transportation Safety Board report 18 months
later attributed the accident to a manufacturing defect in a turbine
blade, "a matter over which (the company) had no control," B.C. Supreme
Court Judge Bruce Greyell said in a written decision posted online


Gill claimed the decision to suspend his certificate forced him into bankruptcy, and he lost between $10- and $12 million.


Sonicblue was an air courier
service that delivered courier packages in B.C. and Alaska and operated a
chartered passenger service between Vancouver and Tofino. It was one of
three components of International Express Aircharter Ltd., which also
had flight training and aircraft maintenance operations.


The judge noted a series of fines and
infractions that led the Transport Canada Civil Aviation branch to place
the company on an enhanced monitoring program in August 2004.


In August and September of that year, the agency
conducted 21 inspections that resulted in 15 letters of notification
identifying regulatory issues, four detection notices sent to the
enforcement branch for further investigation and 62 defects brought to
the attention of the company.


But only 12 of the 62 defects were significant
and there was no evidence any of the detection notices resulted in
enforcement action, the judge noted.


Still, he found Transport Canada
and its officials did not act in a malicious way in suspending the
company's operating certificate.


"The facts of this case must be considered in context," Greyell wrote.


Officials were dealing with an emerging fatal
accident. The press wanted to know the circumstances and the carrier's
record. Officials didn't know what caused the crash but they did know
about International Express Aircharter's past infractions.


They followed procedure, the judge said.


"While the decision may be
criticized, as it was by the (Transportation Appeal Tribunal), I find
the defendants (Transport Canada), Nowzek and Heryet did not act in a
malicious, arbitrary, high-handed or oppressive manner, but rather were
motivated by their sense of what was in the public interest at the
time," Greyell said.


"I find they did not knowingly act illegally or in bad faith chose a course of action specifically to injure (the company)."


Stories continue below