Investigation into fatal plane crash north of Kingston closed

A CH-146 Griffon Search & Rescue helicopter from Trenton’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre responded to the scene in South Frontenac in September 2022. Photo by Kingstonist.

The Transporation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has concluded its investigation into a fatal plane crash in South Frontenac Township which claimed the life of the pilot, who was the sole occupant, in September 2022.

The privately registered Quad City Ultralight Aircraft Corporation (Quad City) Challenger II advanced ultralight aircraft crashed in the area near Hickey Lane and Buck Bay Road in South Frontenac, north of Verona, on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The small craft was substantially damaged on impact and the pilot was pronounced deceased at the scene.

According to the report from TSB, the plane took off from a grass runway near Yarker in the early afternoon. While en route, a door opened, and the pilot made a precautionary landing in a farmer’s field near Bobs Lake, east of Parham. After landing, the pilot called the aircraft owner, who was waiting at Westport/Rideau Lakes Aerodrome (CRL2) — where the pilot was heading — and requested that he come to the field to assist with the repair of the door.

After the repairs, at approximately 3:12 p.m., the plane left the field to resume the flight to CRL2, the TSB reported in its findings published Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

“At 1515, shortly after takeoff, the aircraft was observed flying at a low altitude in a southerly direction. The engine was heard producing a sputtering sound and then stopping. The aircraft was then observed descending rapidly and rolling inverted before colliding with terrain in a wooded area,” the safety board said.

This coincides with a statement from the OPP at the time, who noted, “At approximately 3:18 p.m., officers from the Frontenac Detachment of the OPP received multiple calls from members of the public indicating they had seen a small plane go down in a wooded area near Buck Bay Rd., close to the southern tip of Bob’s Lake.”

Figure 1. Map showing the site of the precautionary landing and the accident site (inset). Image via Google Earth Pro, with TSB annotations.

South Frontenac Fire Stations 1 & 2, including a boat unit, the OPP, and a CH-146 Griffon Search and Rescue helicopter from Trenton’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre responded to the scene shortly thereafter, at around 3:30 p.m.

“At 1525, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario, was notified of the accident and initiated a search and rescue (SAR) operation in the area. At 1635, a CH146 Griffon helicopter located the aircraft, and 2 SAR technicians were hoisted down to the accident site. Shortly afterwards, local firefighters arrived and assisted with the recovery of the pilot.”

After recovery of the aircraft, TSB identified the engine as a ROTAX 503 UL, which is not a certified aircraft engine. In fact, the engine manufacturer provides the following warnings:

Warning: This is not a certificated aircraft engine. It has not received any safety or durability testing, and conforms to no aircraft standards. It is for use in experimental, uncertificated aircraft and vehicles only in which an engine failure will not compromise safety.

[…]

Warning: Never fly the aircraft equipped with this engine at locations, airspeeds, altitudes, or other circumstances from which a successful no-power landing cannot be made, after sudden engine stoppage.

“The aircraft systems were examined to the degree possible on site, and no indication of a malfunction was identified,” the report concluded. “The engine was recovered and taken to the TSB regional wreckage examination facility in Richmond Hill, Ontario. An examination of the engine, ignition, and fuel system did not reveal any indications of mechanical failure.”

While the TSB report stated that the weather and the pilot’s performance were not likely a factor in this crash, at the time of the accident, the aircraft was “being operated at a low altitude and over a forested area, with limited suitable landing sites,” the safety board noted.

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