Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
Making someone accountable

November 6, 2007  By Drew McCarthy

And that's the way it always goes ... another real life example of the "swiss cheese model" of accident causation.

In a story of great interest to both helicopter and fixed-wing pilots, a Calgary-based pilot was recently found guilty of criminal negligence
causing death, four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily
harm, and dangerous operation of an aircraft.  Read the news report here.

The pilot, 42-tear old Mark Tayfel, was flying a Piper
Navajo owned by Keystone Air when it
on a Winnipeg street in June 2002.  The pilot and six passengers were
injured ( one, Chester Jones, died a few weeks later) when both engines
cut out due to lack of fuel shortly after missing an attempted landing
at YWG.

In a 69-page ruling, Justice Holly Beard concluded that Tayfel had no reasonable excuse for
running out of fuel.

An aviation expert called by the defence said that Tayfel should be
commended, not criminalized, for the crash-landing. The expert told the court that the real blame should rest
with Tayfel's employer, Keystone Air.


The  defence maintained that Tayfel was pressured into flying despite
the fact that he'd raised concerns with the chief pilot that the
aircraft wasn't equipped with a mandatory auto-pilot. The device likely
would have helped Tayfel make a safe landing in
Winnipeg. During cross-examination, Tayfel admitted he didn't push the

The auto-pilot could perhaps have changed the situation,
but, had the pilot been diligent about checking the fuel , the accident
would almost certainly have been avoided.

Tayfel most obviously made a mistake in judgment that day, but unless
he was trying to kill himself, he must have believed that he had enough
fuel. Someone else probably believed that flying without the auto pilot
would likely be okay (at least this time).

And that's the way it always goes … another real life example of the
"swiss cheese model" of accident causation. So many responsible, but in
this case, only one made accountable.

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