|Air ambulance experiences ground turbulence|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by publisher|
|Wednesday, 05 January 2011 21:54|
By Marcia Love
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating after a plane skidded off the Maple Creek Airport runway earlier this week.
The accident occurred when an air ambulance was attempting to land on the snowy runway around noon on Jan. 3.
Chris Oleson, director of Executive Air Services in Regina, said the pilot appeared to have difficulty manoeuvering the small plane on the snow-covered pavement.
“It looks like he touched down and couldn’t get level on the snow... and skidded off the runway,” he explained.
The aircraft came to a stop on the turf south of the runway.
Maple Creek EMS services and the fire department were called to the accident, but all three occupants of the aircraft were reported to have sustained no injuries.
The pilot and two passengers – a nurse and paramedic – were able to exit the plane without difficulty.
The air ambulance was brought in to transport a patient from Maple Creek Hospital to a facility in Saskatoon. Following the accident, the patient was driven to Saskatoon and is reported to be in stable condition.
A significant amount of damage was done to the front of the aircraft, which was later towed to the airport terminal where it will await repairs.
Oleson said the cost of restoring the plane is expected to be over $500,000.
The air ambulance was one of three in the province. Oleson is looking into options to compensate for the damaged plane while it is out of commission.
He said repairs are expected to take at least three months.
It is unconfirmed if snow on the runway was the cause of the accident.
Mark Caswell, town administrator, said snowfall levels at the airport are checked regularly to ensure safe operations.
Although the town received a great deal of snowfall on Jan. 2, he said it was not enough to cause concern on the runway.
“The airport – especially when there’s snow happening – is checked multiple times a day,” he noted.
Caswell said the protocol for snow removal at airports does not require runways to be cleared unless there is more than four inches of snow accumulated.
“We were within that tolerance (on Jan. 3), and conditions did not dictate that we should be out there clearing snow based on what was on the ground,” he explained. “There may have been places where there was as much as four inches, but it wasn’t evenly four inches everywhere. There was considerably less at certain parts of the runway.”
According to Caswell, the airport is considered a higher priority for snow removal than other areas of the town.
“The airport is usually the very first thing checked in the morning before the town,” he said, but noted the number of times it is examined depends on weather activity. “If we’re in the middle of a five-day snowfall, it’s checked quite regularly.”
The town does not regulate air traffic to and from the airport.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is conducting an investigation to determine all factors in the accident.
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