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Air transportation safety investigation A15P0217

Update:The TSB has completed this investigation. The report was published on 20 December 2017.

Table of contents

Loss of control during night approach and near collision with terrain

Helijet International Inc.
Sikorsky S-76C+ (helicopter), C-GHHJ
Tofino/Long Beach Airport, British Columbia

View final report

The occurrence

On 15 November 2015, at 0135 Pacific Standard Time, the Helijet International Inc. Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter (registration C-GHHJ, serial number 760500) departed at night from Vancouver International Airport, British Columbia, on a night visual flight rules medical evacuation flight to Tofino/Long Beach Airport, British Columbia, with 2 paramedics and 2 pilots on board. While conducting a visual approach to Runway 29, the crew disengaged the autopilot at an altitude of 600 feet above sea level and manoeuvred toward the planned landing area. At approximately 0239, on short final, the helicopter's airspeed slowed, a high rate of descent developed, rotor speed began to decrease, and directional control was lost. Control was re-established over a beach, after the helicopter had descended to approximately 3 feet above ground level, and approximately 67 feet below the airfield elevation at Tofino/Long Beach Airport. The pilots then observed normal engine and drivetrain parameters and climbed to 500 feet above sea level to conduct a second approach. During this approach, additional control difficulties were encountered, but the helicopter was able to land. There were no injuries, there was no fire, and the emergency locator transmitter was not activated.

Media materials

News release

2017-12-20

Night flight without adequate visual references led to 2015 near-collision with terrain of a Helijet helicopter in Tofino, British Columbia
Read the news release

Investigation information

Map showing the location of the occurrence




Investigator-in-charge

Photo of Chris Johnston

Chris Johnston joined the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) in 2015 as a Regional Senior Investigator in the Air Investigations Branch, at the Pacific regional office in Richmond (British Columbia).

Mr. Johnston has more than 24 years' experience in civil aviation as a pilot and as an aircraft maintenance engineer. He holds an airline transport pilot licence (helicopter) with approximately 7000 hours' flight time as well as M1 and M2 aircraft maintenance engineering licences. Just prior to joining the TSB, Mr. Johnston worked as a company safety officer and quality assurance manager. He has also owned and operated a small helicopter charter company in British Columbia, where he held the position of Operations Manager, Chief Pilot, and Director of Maintenance.


  Download high-resolution photos from the TSB Flickr page.

Class of investigation

This is a class 3 investigation. These investigations analyze a small number of safety issues, and may result in recommendations. Class 3 investigations are generally completed within 450 days. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.