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The Globe and Mail

Voice recorder data recovered from crashed plane

A small plane crash at the foot of the Vancouver International airport in Richmond, B.C. October 27, 2011.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Investigators have retrieved data from the cockpit voice recorder of a plane that crashed last Thursday near Vancouver International Airport.

"We were able to download the information from the [cockpit voice recorder]" Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood said Monday. "It worked as it was supposed to work."

A Beechcraft King Air 100 aircraft, operated by Prince George-based Northern Thunderbird Air, crashed Thursday afternoon on a highway close to the airport. The flight had been headed to Kelowna, but pilots turned around after an oil pressure gauge showed fluctuations.

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The crew was cleared to return to Vancouver. During the descent, the two pilots were asked if fire and rescue were needed and they declined.

As it approached the runway, the plane "suddenly rolled left, pitched down and collided with the ground and a car," says a preliminary Transport Canada report, dated Oct. 31.

Investigators are looking into what may have caused the plane's sudden roll, including mechanical problems.

"That's the big, big question – why did it bank left so suddenly at the final stage of the flight?" Mr. Yearwood said.

The plane carried two crew and seven passengers. Pilot Luc Fortin, 44, was killed in the crash. Two passengers have been treated and released, and six people remain hospitalized in Vancouver General Hospital, including one in intensive care.

The wreckage of the plane, stored in a hangar at the airport immediately after the crash, was to be moved Monday to a different hangar that will provide better working conditions for investigators.

The aircraft was not required to be equipped with a flight data recorder, Mr. Yearwood said. Those so-called black boxes record information such as airspeed, altitude and instrument settings.

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A cockpit voice recorder preserves conversations between the pilots and air traffic control, as well as cockpit noise or warning alarms.

Once the plane hit the ground, passersby ran to pull passengers from the wreckage. Firefighting crews from the airport and the Richmond Fire Department rushed to the scene. Airport trucks doused flames with foam, and emergency response teams cut away wreckage to help extract passengers.

Transport Canada regulations require response times of no longer than three minutes to a fire at the airport. Although not technically on YVR property, the crash site was "about 50 feet outside the airport fence," said Don Ehrenholz, vice-president of operations at the airport, and he said crews reached the scene within the prescribed time frame.

Two heavy-duty trucks crashed through a perimeter fence to get to the site.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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