Ghost Plane Crash Likely Suicide

Crash airplane was rented in Michigan.

Authorities are now calling the mysterious crash of a pilotless Cessna 172 in Northern Ontario a suspected suicide.

The University of Michigan, which owned the aircraft, issued a statement Wednesday saying the ghost flight and crash “likely were an act of self harm” by Xin Rong, a PhD student at the university who rented the 172 last Wednesday.

Rong, an experienced pilot, filed a flight plan from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Harbor Springs, Michigan but the aircraft was found between 60 km. west of Marathon, Ontario, about 750 km. north, the next morning.

There was no sign of a pilot, no tracks in the snow, the autopilot was on and the fuel tanks were empty. It is believed that somewhere along the way Xin jumped from the plane. No body has been recovered and the search has been supended.

The Transportation Safety Board briefly investigated but apparently reached the same conclusion as the U.S. officials and cancelled the probe.

Xin, 27, was from Changchun, China and was studing artificial intelligence with a goal of working in aviation safety.

Drunk Pilot ‘Ashamed’

Miroslav Gronych pleaded guilty in court.

The Sunwing pilot who passed out in the cockpit of the Boeing 737  he was supposed to command to Mexico last New Year’s Eve has pleaded guilty to having care and control of an aircraft while impaired.

“I can’t even describe how ashamed I am,” Miroslav Gronych told a Calgary court. “My kids will be punished for my mistakes.”

Gronych was fired by Sunwing and has been receiving treatment for his alcohol addiction since the incident, which received world-wide attention and sparked a safety reminder to airlines from Transport Canada.

Although he’s been out on bail since shortly after the incident, Gronych was taken back to jail to await sentencing. Prosecutors have asked for a year but the defence is hoping for three to six months.

Between midnight and about 6 a.m., Gronych drained a 26-ounce bottle of vodka in his hotel room before stumbling off to work. He was an hour late, his pilot wings were pinned upside down on his uniform and he took several tries to hang up his jacket.

He was found passed out in his seat with his face pressed against the side window before being escorted from the airplane by fellow crew members.

Sunwing found a sober pilot to replace him and the flight took off for Regina, Winnipeg and Cancun several hours late.

Gronych is a Slovakian national and was in Canada on a work permit.

Crash Pilot Ignored ATC Calls

Two Cargair 152s collided in Montreal.

Investigators in Montreal say air traffic control tapes show one of the pilots involved in a midair collision last Friday didn’t respond to at least four attempts by ATC to raise him on the radio.

Two Cessna 152s owned by Cargair at St-Hubert Airport and being flown by Chinese students collided above a busy shopping centre. One of the students died in the crash of his plane into the parking lot while the other went through the roof and survived.

ATC apparently warned one of the pilots that he was not at his assigned altitude but the 23-year-old student did not respond. Both of the pilots had flown in the airspace and dealt with ATC repeatedly during their training and were described as being “proficient” in English.

TSB investigator Jean-Marc Ledoux told CTV there could be any number of reasons for the pilot to ignore the controller’s altitude directions.

“We have to consider a lot of things before coming to any conclusion,” he said. “Understanding why a person takes several times to reply or correctly reply to an instruction from an air traffic controller might depend on several things. Does he have problems with the radio? Was he very busy on the flight deck with something else?”

High Flight Poet Honoured

PO John Gillespie Magee Jr. wrote High Flight.

Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame has named John Gillespie Magee Jr. as its Honorary Poet.

Magee was a 19-year-old RCAF Spitfire pilot in 1941 when he penned “High Flight,” an oft-spoken sonnet that has become the go-to passage when tributes to fallen pilots are in order.

Magee wrote the passage about a month before he was killed in a training accident.

He mailed the poem to his parents in the U.S. and it was published in several newspapers and bulletins.

Magee was born in China to missionary parents and was renowned as a poet while at the Rugby School in England. He earned a scholarship to Yale University in the U.S. but enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot.

In addition to the Magee tribute, the Hall will induct Helijet founder Danny Sitnam, Porter Airlines founder Bob Deluce, test pilot Rogers Smith and Erroll Boyd, the first Canadian to fly across the Atlantic.

The Belt of Orion Award for Excellence will go to the RCAF Golden Hawks.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the Snowbirds as recipients of the Belt of Orion. Our apologies.

Canadian Replica Biplanes Honor Vimy

Canadian Museum of Flight volunteers work on a Sopwith Pup.

Seven replica biplanes of the type flown by Canadian pilots over the Battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago were to be in France Thursday as Canada gets ready to mark a turning point in its history.

The four seven/eighths scale Nieuport 11s, an SE-5 and two full-scale Sopwith Pups will represent the aerial war component in the battle, which marked the first time a unified Canadian force faced an enemy under the Red Ensign.

They were to have been loaded in an RCAF C-17 at CFB Comox for the trip to France.

On April 9, 1917, four Canadian battalions launched an offensive and took the ridge after three days of intense fighting. Overhead were Canadian members of the Royal Flying Corps, checking troop movements and spotting artillery, most of the time in a late spring snowstorm.

The replica aircraft will do a single 270-degree turn around the Vimy monument in a reenactment of a flight that occurred at the dedication of the monument on April 9, 1936.

The aircraft are part of Vimy Flight, an effort by a group of retired RCAF pilots to commemorate the battle that most historians agree signaled Canada’s coming out as a nation on the world stage.

The Pups were built from kits at the Canadian Museum of Flight over the past two years and were supposed to fly at Vimy but a late engine change delayed their construction and they didn’t have enough hours on them to fly at Vimy. The Pups will be on static display during events in France.

They will, however, be ready to fly in the second stage of the Vimy Flight operation. All seven aircraft will form a flying circus barnstorming across Canada starting in May. At each stop, they will present educational programs on Vimy and the importance of Canada’s contribution.

Canadian Museum of Flight volunteers work on a Sopwith Pup.

Seven replica biplanes of the type flown by Canadian pilots over the Battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago were to be in France Thursday as Canada gets ready to mark a turning point in its history.

The four seven/eighths scale Nieuport 11s, an SE-5 and two full-scale Sopwith Pups will represent the aerial war component in the battle, which marked the first time a unified Canadian force faced an enemy under the Red Ensign.

They were to have been loaded in an RCAF C-17 at CFB Comox for the trip to France.

On April 9, 1917, four Canadian battalions launched an offensive and took the ridge after three days of intense fighting. Overhead were Canadian members of the Royal Flying Corps, checking troop movements and spotting artillery, most of the time in a late spring snowstorm.

The replica aircraft will do a single 270-degree turn around the Vimy monument in a reenactment of a flight that occurred at the dedication of the monument on April 9, 1936.

The aircraft are part of Vimy Flight, an effort by a group of retired RCAF pilots to commemorate the battle that most historians agree signaled Canada’s coming out as a nation on the world stage.

The Pups were built from kits at the Canadian Museum of Flight over the past two years and were supposed to fly at Vimy but a late engine change delayed their construction and they didn’t have enough hours on them to fly at Vimy. The Pups will be on static display during events in France.

They will, however, be ready to fly in the second stage of the Vimy Flight operation. All seven aircraft will form a flying circus barnstorming across Canada starting in May. At each stop, they will present educational programs on Vimy and the importance of Canada’s contribution.

Helicopter Circumnavigation Eyed

Bell 429 that will fly around the world.

A father and son team from Ontario will fly a state-of-the-art Bell 429 helicopter around the world starting July 1.

Bob Dengler and his son Steven announced the flight Wednesday and said it will be the first time a Canadian crew has flown around the world in a helicopter and the first time a father and son crew has done it. The two will be accompanied by Bell Helicopter test pilot Dugal MacDuff.

“It is a true adventure that’s an official Canada 150 event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation,” said Steven Dengler

The helicopter, one of Bell’s latest designs, is a light twin designed primarily as a medevac platform but in wide use as a utility and law enforcement aircraft.

The crew will set out from Vaughan, north of Toronto, on Canada Day and head east through Quebec and the Maritimes before skipping over the Atlantic via Greenland and Iceland. They’ll head through Europe and Russia and end with a cross-Canada tour that will finish at the Bell plant in Montreal in mid to late August.

The flight will cover almost 38,000 kilometres with 103 stops in 14 countries. It will raise money for True Patriot Love Foundation, which helps veterans and families, and Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation.

$23,000 Raised For Instructor

Kristen Ursel is recovering from injuries suffered in a training accident.

A GoFundMe campaign launched two weeks ago to benefit an injured Victoria flight instructor has reached almost a quarter of its goal.

The online fundraiser for Kristen Ursel totalled $23,000 by Wednesday with a goal of $100,000.

Ursel, a single mother who is an instructor with the Victoria Flying Club, was paralyzed in a training accident in Duncan in January. Ursel was trapped in the Cessna 172 for two hours after it went down just off the runway. Her student was able to climb out of the wreck.

Ursel’s neck was broken and she now has only limited use of her hands and arms. She is recovering at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver and hopes to return to aviation in some capacity.

Medical insurance is covering her direct expenses but she will need money to cover other expenses not covered by the insurance.

Breitling Launches DC-3 Tour

Breitling DC-3 will be in Toronto in August.

An iconic DC-3 will become the oldest aircraft to fly around the world this year and it will make a stop in Toronto

Breitling’s DC-3 is 77 years old and took off from Geneva March 9, the 77th anniversary of its first flight.

The aircraft will be in Toronto Aug. 16-17 after going through Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

It will cross the Pacific for an extended tour of the U.S. before heading through Toronto on its way back to Europe.

On board the flight is a Navitimer time piece that will be sold in the fall along with a certificate signed by the flight crew.

The aircraft was delivered to American Airlines in 1940 and spent most of its life in North America. It was bought by Francisco Agullo and a group of friends, with help from Breitling. It was restored to pristine condition and has been used as a promotional vehicle by the Swiss chronometer company since.

Youth Movement

Siobhan O’Hanlon is Canada’s youngest female 737 pilot. Brockville Recorder Photo

A Prescott, Ontario woman has become the youngest female Boeing 737 pilot in Canada after she took the right seat of a Sunwing aircraft earlier this year at just 22.

Siobhan O’Hanlon was among a graduating class from the University of Waterloo to benefit from a partnership with Sunwing. She graduated the program with Bachelor of Science in environmental studies and a multi-engine IFR licence last July.

Sunwing then took over the training and after six months of intensive work, O’Hanlon began flying revenue flights to the Caribbean and Mexico early in the New Year.

“It’s pretty surreal to realize you’re in control of a large aircraft like that,” she told the Brockville Recorder.

The joint program is one of several that are now pumping pilots into various Canadian airlines which were beginning to feel the effects of the pilot shortage.

O’Hanlon said she’s enjoying the whirlwind lifestyle she’s adopted and hopes to serve as an example to other young women looking for an aviation career.

“There’s not that many women in the industry so it’s nice to encourage them not to be afraid to join the industry and let them know there are opportunities,” she told the Record.
“It’s totally doable nowadays and there are a lot of opportunities out there.”

Westjet Pays House Repairs

Toilet ice from a passing Encore flight knocked a hole in a Calgary house.

WestJet stepped up immediately to pay for repairs to a Calgary couple’s home that was hit by toilet ice earlier this week.

The chunk of ice went through the roof, ceiling and ended up in the basement of the home that Theresa Couch and her husband have shared for 42 years.

All of a sudden we heard this big bang and all this stuff falling,” Couch told Global News. She and her husband were in another part of the house at the time and were not hurt.

The sound of the impact was heard by neighbours who also thought an explosion occurred.

After a little investigation, it was determined the likely source of the ice was an Encore Q400 that was on final for Calgary International when the ice hit.

“This is a most unfortunate incident for the family whose home was damaged and we will be reaching out to pay for all necessary repairs to their home,” Global quoted WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart as saying in an email.

Lucky Rescue in Arctic

RCAF crew pose with one of the men they rescued. Photo by Belinda Groves/RCAF

Two stranded Nunavut hunters defied incredible odds by catching the attention of a crew member aboard an RCAF aircraft that just happened to be flying overhead.

Tyler Amarualik and 15-year-old Eugene Gibbons were with Lloyd Satuqsi when their snowmobile broke down about 40 km from Hall Beach on the northeast coast of Nunavut.

Satuqsi set out for help in -40 degree weather while the others hunkered down by the sled.

At the same time, a Twin Otter crew from 440 Sqn. in Yellowknife was starting a two-week sovereignty patrol exercise based in Hall Beach.

On their first training mission to locate an abandoned mine site one of the crew thought he saw a man waving on the featureless landscape below. A second pass confirmed the discover and Capt. Thom Doelman executed a trick wheeled landing on the sea ice.

To ensure the ice could hold the aircraft, Doelman did a short field landing, holding the nose off the surface until he knew the ice would hold.

The crew managed to load the men and get back airborne in the final 15 minutes of daylight.

A ground search found Satuqsi the next morning. The hunters rescued by the aircraft were called the “luckiest two guys in the Arctic,” according to reports.

“You could probably go crazy trying to think of all the things that had to line up for us to see these guys out there,” said Doelman.

Airlines Avoid Alcohol Test Mandate

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has put airlines on notice about impaired pilots.

Canada’s eight largest airlines appear to have headed off mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for flight crews but Transport Minister Marc Garneau has reminded them they’re being watched.

After a Sunwing captain passed out drunk in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 he was supposed to command to Regina and Cancun last Dec. 31, Garneau ordered airlines to report on their procedures to prevent such a thing from happening.

By last week the airlines had confirmed they “have proper safety protocols in place to deal with alcohol and drug testing” according to a statement released by Transport Canada.

The government punctuated its statement with an admonition that it’s a criminal offense for anyone to fly an aircraft within eight hours of drinking alcohol and that it’s up to the airlines “ensure that their employees follow [the regulations].”

“As a commercial air carrier authorised to carry passengers in Canada, you have an obligation to ensure that flight crew members are fit to fly when requiring them to carry out such responsibilities,” he said.

The Sunwing pilot, a Slovakian on a Canadian work permit, was arrested and charged.

Last July two Air Transat pilots were arrested for drunkeness at Glasgow Airport in Scotland just before taking 250 passengers back to Canada.

Transport Canada is going ahead with plans for a “Fit to Fly” workshop next June and discussion of random alcohol and drug testing is on the agenda.

U.S. airlines are required to conduct random drug and alcohol testing for their flight crew and results have consistently shown a statistically insignificant positive rate.

Bombardier Loan ‘Legal’

The Global 7000 program will benefit from a loan from the federal government.

Bombardier has hit back at allegations by Brazil-based Embraer that a $372.5 million loan from the Canadian government violates international trade laws.

In an op-ed article published in the Globe and Mail, Mike Nadolski, Bombardier’s vice president of communications and public affairs said the loan agreement was specifically structured to ensure compliance with trade laws.

Nadolski noted that all countries financially support their aerospace industries, Brazil included, and that Embraer is under investigation for a variety of alleged financial transgressions and trade violations.

“Canada, on the other hand, has chosen to provide its support to Bombardier in a manner that respects international rules,” he wrote. “For example, when Quebec made an equity investment in Bombardier’s C Series program, it was done on terms consistent with those required by private investors.”

The loan will be used to fund development of the CSeries and Global 7000 business jet programs, both marquee projects that have gone off schedule and over budget.

The programs pushed Bombardier to the financial brink and the company has received $2.5 billion in government funding in the last two years.

The federal loan is repayable over the next 15 years.

New Laser Protection Developed

Metamaterial Technologies has developed a new laser film.

A Nova Scotia company has invented a window film that protects pilots against laser attacks.

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI) nannounced this week that it has reached a deal with Airbus who will test the material for possible use on its products.

The film reflects laser light but is transparent to normal light intensities. It is colour-neutral, which means that if it reflects a green laser it won’t leave behind a magenta tinge.

Laser strikes are becoming a major problem and thousands are reported every year.

MTI CEO George Palikaras told reporters, the problem will only get worse as lasers find their way into more and more devices.

“There are lasers in everything, in everyday equipment including your Xbox and your Playstation (which) has blue lasers,” he said. “You can scavenge a lot of the lasers and create a powerful device, unfortunately.”

In most cases, laser strikes cause only momentary distraction but several pilots have reported temporary vision damage.

Super Hornets Will ‘Weaken’ RCAF

Super Hornet Deal is ill conceived say researchers.

Two leading defence analysts have concluded that the federal government’s plan to buy 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets as a stopgap measure in the tortured fighter replacement program will actually weaken Canada’s air defences and make it Luddite among its allies.

In a paper released this week, Dr. Gary Schaub, Jr., a senior military researcher at the University of Copenhagen and Richard Shimooka, a research fellow at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute said adding 18 Super Hornets to the RCAF’s fleet of 76 CF-18 Hornets will dilute its capabilies and delay the inevitable need to upgrade to a fifth generation fighter.

“In the not-to-distant future, Canada’s potential contribution to an allied air campaign will be negligible, and may even be seen as a liability to NATO planners,” the researchers concluded.

Last November, the feds announced plans to consider buying the 18 Super Hornets to fill a “capability gap” that several senior commanders had already said doesn’t exist.

The 18 planes will do little to enhance Canada’s ability to fulfill its domestic, NORAD and NATO requirements, the researchers say. Not only will they not be fully interoperable with the F-35 and F-22 fighters that will lead future aerial battles, they’ll be sitting ducks for modern antiaircraft missiles.

In that context, the researchers say the CF-18s will be virtually useless and the Super Hornets not much better in a modern threat environment.

The government already knows all this because it commissioned its own study in 2014 that reached the same conclusions. That report is now no longer available on the government Web site.

Schaub and Shimooka have reached the same conclusion that political analysts have and regard the Super Hornet deal as a way to allow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep his campaign promise to not buy F-35s.

“Trudeau’s adherence to a misguided pre-election statement will be seen as more than mismanagement but rather as a deliberate choice to reduce Canada’s airpower capabilities while expending resources that could have otherwise enhanced them,” the researchers said.