ACAS – Aircraft Collision Avoidance Systems
AGL – Above Ground Level
CARs – Canadian Aviation Regulations
SAC – Soaring Association of Canada
SIM – Soaring Instruction Manual
TC – Transport Canada
TSB – Transportation Safety Board
VFR – Visual Flight Rules
Petition E-2889 was tabled in Parliament on March 10/2021.
Thank you to everyone who got involved and signed our petition. We ran social media campaign ads from November to late January to increase awareness and garner further support. Here are frequently asked questions and concerns we encountered.
The Gliding community is too small for TC to care about.
Although the issue does not affect many people, it is still important. In Canada there are an estimated 1,000 active glider pilots (SAC Annual Report 2020, p. 8). Gliding clubs operate approximately 100 days per year weather permitting. Mid air collisions are the leading cause of glider fatalities (SAC Annual Report 2020, p. 8). One cannot ignore the 30 near miss incidents reported between gliders and other forms of aviation, including 10 with commercial aircraft in the past 12 years. These are generally not reported in the media and entered as statistics into CADORS only.
There is already too much regulation in aviation.
That depends on your perspective. Our TSB investigator was surprised to learn how little regulation there was in gliding. Transport Canada Safety Letters endorse and encourage glider pilots to use FLARMs and broadcast/communicate their intentions, but there is no requirement for safety devices such as ACAS or even radios for gliders.
By legislating FLARMs, you are making an already expensive hobby more unattainable.
The $2,000 cost of a FLARM is small compared to a glider. In addition, you will receive SAC rebates and insurance discounts for your FLARM.
This will only increase costs and workloads for investigators.
This accident took the TSB and TC 10 months to complete. Whenever there is an accident you will employ the services of EMS, police, medical examiners, funerals, litigators, and ongoing grief counselors (the best are in the public sector). The important point is saving lives, which should not be measured economically.
Do these planes not have windows?
The VFR rule of “see and avoid” unfortunately has its limitations. Gliders especially, due to their shape and size, are difficult to see. A FLARM is used as an aid only to the “see and avoid” principle. It will alert the pilots if they are getting too close, so they may take evasive action avoiding a midair collision.
Safety is best achieved through education, not legislation.
Both Cu Nim Gliding Club pilots were trained and experienced and well knew the “see and avoid principle.” Ongoing education for pilots is crucial, however people will apply knowledge and training inconsistently. FLARMs increase safety for everyone, but only if universally used throughout the gliding community. We firmly believe that due to the nature of gliding where aircraft are in close proximity and where pilots depend on one another for their safety, FLARMs should be operable in all gliders and towplanes.
The TSB report stated that both men were wearing parachutes. Why did they not jump out? “Parachutes are a safety device".
At only 2,000ft AGL there was not enough time. Estimated time from collision to impact was 10 seconds. To reiterate, our aim is to prevent midair collisions. ACAS is the sensible option as a complement to eyes out of the cockpit.
This accident demonstrates poor airmanship and would not have happened had the rules been followed. This will never happen to me.
Only in a perfect world. Yes, multiple errors and violations contributed to the collision:
SIM, Chapter B1, p2
SAC “Soar and Learn to Fly Gliders” p.72
Unfortunately, to err and violate is a part of human nature.
Talk to insurance and litigators, they will make the changes you seek.
This is one of the most common questions LSG received. Although civil litigation and increased insurance premiums can provide financial disincentives to negligent conduct, they do not carry the force of law. The private sector cannot compensate for a lack of proper Government Regulations. TC needs to fill an important gap by regulating the use of ACAS. By the very nature of gliding, aircraft are flying in close proximity with each other, with the addition of being difficult to see. Mandatory FLARMs will significantly decrease collisions and near misses.
Near misses are not a big deal, nothing happened.
Wrong. A lot happened. Errors, violations, VFR limitations. The difference between a near miss and a collision is luck. At some point another pilot’s luck will run out. ACAS technology, as a complement to a proper lookout reduces our dependence on the vagaries of fortune.
TC agrees and believes the best prevention is a good lookout. A FLARM does not replace a pilot’s eyes. Even if you can count on yourself to never deviate from procedures, are you sure your fellow pilots are as infallible and adhering to the rules?
“I do not want any more toys in the cockpit.”
FLARMs are EASA certified since November 2015 and were developed by engineers and physicists with the goal of keeping gliders safe from mid air collisions. Since then, their use has expanded to include other small aircraft, hang gliders, and drones. Responsible pilots use all of the safety equipment available to them as a complement to a good look-out and do not dismiss such devices as “toys.”
Are there circumstances where the glider would release in a turn instead of straight and level flight?
- Rope break training. This is done at an elevation of 500ft AGL and must be briefed prior to flight. Cu Nim Gliding Club’s aircraft was at 2,000ft AGL. (SIM 11ed pt B, p 115).
- Rope slack – There was no evidence on the plot of extreme slack where it would have warranted an immediate release. The more preferred method is to yaw or at worst use spoilers.
- Note – slack training is not the same as slack rope. Slack Training exercise positions the glider out of the towplanes circle. No release is initiated as the glider returns to position.
The problem started with the glider pilot when he broke a “cardinal rule” in gliding initiating an improper release and did not maintain separation. Why should everyone else pay for this?
Who threw the first stone is not important. This accident demonstrates that even on an instructor led flight, actions can have a domino effect. As per the Transport Bodies “we will never know what happened up there because cockpit voice recorders are not required for this type of aircraft.”
We cannot always foresee scenarios that may result in fatal outcomes. Enforcing FLARM use is not about Adam or Allan; it is about preventing needless deaths and the parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, children and friends who will sometime in the future ask their political leaders, “why?”