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PWA Crash at Cranbrook Airport

On 11 February 1978, Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314, a Boeing 737-200 crashed at Cranbrook/Canadian Rockies International Airport, near Cranbook, British Columbia, Canada, killing 42 of the 49 people on board.

The scheduled flight from Edmonton International Airport to Castlegar Airport via Calgary, Alberta and Cranbrook, British Columbia crashed after its thrust reversers did not fully stow following an aborted landing to avoid a snowplow on the runway. Calgary air traffic control was considerably in error in its calculation of the Cranbrook arrival time and the flight crew did not report while passing a beacon on final approach.

The investigation was conducted by the Aviation Safety Investigation Division of Transport Canada and audited by the Aircraft Accident Review Board.

PWA crash 1

41 Killed in Crash

by Brian Mitchell Townsman staff writer

. . .
Seven people are still alive of the 48 crew and passengers aboard.

News of the crash was relayed to Kimberley, putting a damper on the festive mood of the city's Winterfest celebrations. However, no major events were cancelled said Bulletin reporter Pete Faulkner. . . .

PWA crash 2

No landing hazards here

EDMONTON : Two Pacific Western Airlines pilots say the landing field at Cranbrook, B.C., where a PWA Boeing-737 crashed Saturday, killing 41 persons, does not usually pose special hazards for pilots. Phil Peskett, 40, and Lee Jasper, 29, both of the Edmonton area, said they have no complaints about the 6,000-foot Cranbrook runway, tucked into a valley 3,100 feet above sea level.

"There's no difference between landing, there and landing in Edmonton or Calgary," said Peskett. He said the Edmonton Municipal Airport runway where the ill-fated PWA plane landed earlier Saturday is shorter than the Cranbrook strip.

Jasper described Cranbrook's instrument landing facility as adequate although the strip has no control tower. Radio Communication is provided from the terminal. Neither pilot recalled any complaints by the Canadian Airline Pilots Association CALPA about Cranbrook's conditions.

Although the approach to Cranbrook is through a valley lined with mountains, Jasper said there is no special danger because "it's one of the widest we go into."

Pilot wouldn't abort

CRANBROOK, B.C. (CP) - A senior Pacific Western Airlines official said today he would not have aborted landing a 737 aircraft when told snow removal equipment was on the runway. Kees Fransbergen, assistant vice-president of flight operations and a qualified pilot on a 737 aircraft, was commenting on reports from Ottawa that the pilot of the PWA jet that crashed Saturday, killing 41 persons, was warned that snow clearing operations were underway at the airport near this southeastern British Columbia community.

Frank Wallace, spokesman for Transport Canada in Ottawa, said the pilot told a radio operator he would report back as he approached the airport, to provide sufficient notice to clear the runway, Fransbergen said the airline was not privy to the information released in Ottawa. He said the standard procedure was that a pilot would be informed of runway conditions and if equipment would be on the runway while eight kilometers from it.

He said it would take roughly three minutes from the time the initial exchange was made between the pilot and the air-radio operator for the plane to arrive at the airport, allowing the operator of the equipment sufficient time to leave the runway.

. . .
Of the seven survivors, two are from the Kootenays, one from Cranbrook. Survivor David White, 20, a Calgary student whose parents, Anne and Bill McKay, live in Cranbrook, walked away from the crash with only sore stomach muscles caused by his seat belt.
Castlegar resident Lynn Olsenberg, 11 years old, is still in Cranbrook and District Hospital. Kathy Mailey, of Whitehorse, Yukon Territories and PWA stewardess Gail Bunn, of St. Albert, Alta., were treated for minor injuries and released.
Two survivors were transferred to hospitals in Calgary and Vancouver to be treated for burns. Ronald Sims was transferred to Calgary Saturday afternoon and a woman who has not yet been identified was transferred to a Vancouver hospital.
Thomas Sprague, of Calgary, is still in Cranbrook Hospital.

PWA crash 3

Narrative: Pacific Western flight 314 was a scheduled service from Edmonton, AB (YEG) to Castlegar Airport, BC (YCG) with stops at Calgary, AB (YYC) and Cranbrook (YXC).

The flight departed Calgary at 12:32 in the afternoon. The airplane climbed to FL200 which was reached at 12:38. Calgary ATC then reported to the Cranbrook Aeradio station that flight 314 was underway with an ETA of 13:05.

At Cranbrook it was snowing with the visibility reported as 3/4 of a mile, and a radio equipped snow removal vehicle was sweeping the runway. The Aeradio operator at Cranbrook alerted the driver of the vehicle about the incoming aircraft and gave him the ETA of 13:05; they both expected the flight would report by the "Skookum Beacon" on a straight-in approach to runway 16, thus giving the vehicle operator about seven minutes to get off the runway.

At 12:46, while descending out of FL180, flight 314 contacted Cranbrook Aeradio. One minute later the crew were advised that snow removal was in progress. No further transmissions were received from the flight by Aeradio. The aircraft passed the Skookum beacon inbound on a straight-in instrument approach, and flew the ILS for runway 16 to touchdown.

The aircraft touched down at 12:55 some 800 feet from the treshold and reverse thrust was selected. Suddenly the crew noticed a snow plow on the runway. A go-around was initiated immediately. However one of the thrust-reversers didn't fully re-stow because hydraulic power was automatically cut off at lift-off.

The aircraft became airborne prior to the 2000 foot mark, and flew down the runway at a height of 50 to 70 feet, flying over the snow plow. The left engine thrust reverser doors then deployed and the crew rapidly selected the flaps up from 40deg to 15deg. The airplane climbed to 300-400 feet, banked steeply to the left, lost height and side-slipped into the ground to the left of the runway. The aircraft broke up and caught fire.


1. The estimated time of arrival of the aircraft at Cranbrook, calculated by Calgary ATC, and used by Aeradio for advisory purposes was considerably in error and resulted in a traffic conflict between the arriving aircraft and a vehicle working on the runway.
2. The flight crew did not report by the Skookum beacon on final approach, as was the normal practice at Cranbrook, thereby allowing the incorrect ETA to remain undetected.
3. Regulatory provisions concerning mandatory pilot position reporting during instrument approaches were inadequate.
4. The interfaces between the organizations providing Air Traffic Services, Telecommunications (Aeradio) and Airports Services were not well enough developed to provide a reliable fail-safe flight information service.
5. The pilots lost control of the aircraft consequent upon the left engine thrust reverser deploying in flight when the aircraft was at low speed, and in a high drag configuration.
6. The FAA design standards under which the Boeing 737 was constructed did not adequately provide for the possibility of an aborted landing after touchdown and thrust reverser initiation.
7. The lack of a suitable national system of incident reporting, investigation, and follow-up corrective action allowed operational problems to remain uncorrected.
8. Rescue efforts at the accident scene were hampered due to lack of a fire fighting vehicle capable of negotiating deep snow and shortage of trained rescue personnel.

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