Fire Fighting in Canada

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Fire whirl caused fatal air tanker crash: TSB

Aug. 12, 2016, Edmonton - A tornado-like blast of flames caused an air tanker to crash last spring while fighting a wildfire in northeastern Alberta, killing the pilot.

August 12, 2016
By The Canadian Press

The Transportation Safety Board says the pilot could not see the “fire whirl” after making a low altitude drop of water and foam on the fire near Cold Lake on May 22, 2015.

Investigators say severe turbulence forced the nose of the single-engine Conair Air AT-802A float plane up, the plane rolled and then crashed.

The report says if pilots aren’t trained to deal with the dangers of wildfires there is a risk they will fly into unsafe conditions.

It also found that not all types of restraint systems in planes protect pilots during severe turbulence.

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The board says since the crash the Conair Group Inc. has trained its pilots about the dangers of flying near wildfires and has installed new pilot harnesses in AT-802A aircraft.

“The investigation determined that the aircraft had encountered a tornado-like event generated by the fire, which is known as a fire whirl,” The TSB said in a release Thursday.

“The aircraft’s low altitude while fighting the wildfire made recovery impossible, resulting in impact with terrain.”