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Air Tindi plane makes unexpected landing — but Transport Canada, airline differ on details

The Transport Canada report tells a harrowing tale.  An Air Tindi Cessna leaves from Yellowknife on Sept.

26 and during its ascent, the plane experiences engine failure, and is forced to make an unexpected landing in Behchoko, N.W.T.

According to the incident report posted on Transport Canada's website, the aircraft "glided" into the Rae/Edzo Airport, "landing safely." Thankfully, no injuries or damage were reported. But Air Tindi's president says the event was less dramatic than the federal department's Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) would have readers believe. 

Actually, says Chris Reynolds, the report got some key details wrong. 

'An incorrect report'

"It's an incorrect report," he said bluntly, when reached for comment on Monday. Reynolds said the Cessna Caravan was flying from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., on a scheduled trip when, in flight (not during the climb, as the report indicates), the flight crew got a warning that the back-up electrical power supply, "which is essentially an alternator for standby power," failed.  The pilot elected to land at the Rae/Edzo Airport in Behchoko as a "precautionary measure," said Reynolds.

"So the engine did not fail," he added, and the aircraft "did not glide or anything like that. He landed uneventfully in Behchoko."  If this was the case, how did Transport Canada get the incident so wrong?

"I'm not sure," said Reynolds. "We're following up on that."  He said the pilot was talking to air traffic control in Edmonton and something, apparently, "got jumbled up there." The pilot "definitely had power and landed with power." 

Transport Canada endeavours to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data contained within CADORS, however, the information within should be treated as preliminary, unsubstantiated and subject to change. - Cybelle Morin, Transport Canada spokesperson

On its website, Transport Canada says it tracks airport or landing strip incidents that "could affect aviation safety." The purpose of CADORS, said spokesperson Cybelle Morin in an email on Tuesday, is to capture initial information on incidents involving aircraft in Canadian airspace and at Canadian airports.

"Transport Canada endeavours to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data contained within CADORS, however, the information within should be treated as preliminary, unsubstantiated and subject to change," she said. A different spokesperson on Wednesday said Transport Canada followed up with Air Tindi after the incident and did not find any "non-compliances" with aviation regulations.

Pilot 'did a great job'

Reynolds said it's typical for the Cessna Caravan to fly with one pilot, and that the aircraft, which was built in 1998, is considered relatively young. This particular aircraft hasn't had issues in the past, he said, and for such a plane to lose its backup power supply is "not common at all." 

But given the circumstances, the pilot did "very well," said Reynolds. He said he radioed Edmonton air traffic control, got clearance to land in Behchoko, and landed as soon as was practical. "He did a great job," said Reynolds. "He did what he was trained to do in the simulator and followed that through really well and kept us all in the loop." 

The passengers took a different aircraft on to Fort Simpson and the Cessna was flown back to Yellowknife, said Reynolds. 

Now, he said, Air Tindi is "starting fresh." It's replacing the problematic parts on all of its Cessna Caravans, as well as increasing the frequency of inspections of those parts, and training maintenance personnel to watch out for that kind of failure.

The airline is investigating to find out exactly what happened.

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