Leaving known ice on plane caused fatal 2017 West Wind Aviation crash in northern Sask., investigation finds

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) will release its findings Thursday into the crash of a passenger plane in northern Saskatchewan that occurred almost four years ago.

A West Wind Aviation twin-turboprop ATR 42 crashed near the fly-in community of Fond-du-Lac’s airport shortly after takeoff on the evening of Dec. 13, 2017. 

Several people on board were seriously injured. One of them died in hospital two weeks after the crash. Some passengers soon filed a class-action lawsuit against the Saskatoon-based airline.

The TSB will release its long-awaited findings at 10 a.m. CST, followed by a virtual news conference at 11 a.m. CST. 

“We all need to hear what really caused the plane to go down,” said Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation Chief Louis Mercredi in June 2020, almost two years after the TSB had wrapped its analysis and moved into the report phase of its investigation. 

The TSB released some preliminary findings in 2018. Engine failure was ruled out. The agency also found that the plane took off with ice on its wings, without having been de-iced.

It also shared a photo of the limited de-icing equipment that had been available to West Wind at the airport at time, which one aviation expert dubbed “woefully inadequate.”

According to investigators, de-icing equipment available consisted of two ladders, a hand-held spray bottle with electric blanket and wand, and a container of de-icing fluid. The plane was not de-iced before it took off. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

That finding prompted the TSB to quiz other airlines operating in Canada’s North about their practices. The agency found many flights took off without de-icing first. 

However, TSB officials at the time did not comment on the cause of the Fond-du-Lac crash. 

Saskatoon-based West Wind — which rebranded itself as Rise Air earlier this year — will host its own online news conference at 2 p.m. CST with company president Derek Nice.

Journalists were asked to submit questions beforehand and told that additional questions will not be accepted during the news conference.

The Saskatoon-based airline West Wind Aviation rebranded as Rise Air earlier this year. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

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