...How It Happened

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As the plane descended from the north, its navigation gear picked up the signals from the ILS systems and gave the first officer, the non-flying pilot, a constant readout of the distance from Kelowna. So, when the pilot mistook the Vernon strip for Kelowna, he turned the plane 90 degrees to the right of the Kelowna runway heading and started an 1800-feet-per-minute descent to the wrong airport. The plane's navigation equipment was clearly showing the flight to be 30 miles from the right airport. However, the first officer had been distracted by a radio call from terminal staff in Kelowna concerning the flight's gate assignment and it wasn't until the plane was well-settled on final for Runway 23 in Vernon that the first officer noticed the discrepancies on the panel and suggested a go-around. Just as they were tucking the gear up, the TCAS blared a warning about conflicting traffic in the pattern at Vernon. Vernon flight instructor Tyler Chambers and a student were just turning base for 23 when Chambers saw the Airbus bearing down on them. He took control and steered their Cessna 152 well clear of the airliner. Chambers tried to radio the jet, but the crew wasn't monitoring the local frequency. After landing without incident in Kelowna, the pilot called a supervisor and reported the incident as insignificant. Therefore, the cockpit voice recorder tape wasn't saved, which a TSB spokesman said hampered the investigation. The TSB didn't issue any recommendations, but Air Canada has incorporated the incident into its training. It has also banned radio communications between the cockpit and ground staff when approaching aircraft are below 10,000 feet so the flight crew isn't distracted from monitoring "correct approach parameters." The pilots involved got a remedial ride in a flight simulator but no disciplinary action was taken, airline spokeswoman Angela Mah told The Vancouver Sun.