News release

Visual approach in low visibility and taxiway design led to August 2014 risk of collision between two aircraft at Fort McMurray, Alberta airport

Edmonton, Alberta, 4 November 2015 – Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (A14W0127) into the August 2014 risk of collision between two aircraft in Fort McMurray, Alberta. There were no injuries.

On 4 August 2014, a Canadian North Boeing 737-36Q was on a flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Fort McMurray, Alberta. The flight crew prepared for a visual approach to Runway 25 at the Fort McMurray airport. When the aircraft was four miles from the runway, the crew saw the airport environment and inadvertently lined up with Taxiway J, parallel to the runway. The Boeing 737 was abeam the threshold of Runway 25 at 46 feet above ground level while a Jazz Aviation DHC-8-402 was proceeding eastbound on Taxiway J for departure on Runway 25 approximately 2800 feet away. The Boeing 737 conducted a missed approach and it was at 230 feet above ground when it passed over the DHC-8.

The TSB investigation determined that, although haze from nearby forest fires had reduced visibility, the air traffic controller assessed the visibility to be higher than reported and did not turn on the approach lighting as required. The flight crew, conducting a visual approach below the visual flight rules limits, then misidentified Taxiway J for the similarly shaped Runway 25, as both have a squared-off end.

The investigation also found that the risks associated with unstable approaches and visual illusions are increased when flight crews do not rigorously follow approach-and-landing procedures. Approach-and-landing accidents are on the TSB's 2014 Watchlist. The TSB has called on Transport Canada and air operators to do more to reduce the number of unstable approaches that are continued to a landing.

Following the occurrence, the Fort McMurray Airport Authority issued cautions to pilots not to confuse Taxiway J with Runway 25 by various means and NAV CANADA disseminated the information. For its part, Canadian North Inc. raised awareness about Taxiway J with all its pilots and the occurrence flight crew underwent additional simulator and classroom training related to go-around procedures.

Date modified: