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TSB investigating near miss with Ornge helicopter in Ottawa

June 19, 2014  By The Toronto Star

June 19, 2014, Ottawa - A quick-thinking air traffic controller saved an ORNGE air ambulance helicopter from taxiing into the path of a landing Federal Express cargo jet at Ottawa airport.

The Transportation
Safety Board of Canada has launched a formal investigation after the
helicopter ignored a controller’s instruction and taxied into the
protected area of a runway at Ottawa airport as the jet was preparing to

It was only a second
instruction from the air traffic controller that stopped the ORNGE
helicopter, callsign “Lifeflight 4,” in time, according to a preliminary
report into the June 5 incident.

The incident is known as a runway incursion, a growing problem at Canadian airports and one that is on the safety board’s watchlist of serious transportation risks.

A Star analysis
last year of Transport Canada data revealed that on average, there are
almost 400 runway incursions by aircraft, vehicles and pedestrians each
year at Canadian airports. A search of a Transport Canada database that
logs aviation incidents shows there have been 175 runway incursions so
far this year.


The Ottawa incident
unfolded when the AW139 helicopter, preparing to depart to Pembroke,
Ont., was told by air traffic control to stop its taxi before crossing
Runway 25. However, the helicopter continued past the stop line and
entered the runway’s protected area as the Federal Express Airbus A300
twin-engine jet was landing.

There was a “risk of
collision” when the helicopter crossed the runway stop line without
authorization and into the potential path of the arriving jet, according
to a preliminary Transport Canada report into the accident.

“ATC (air traffic control) had to stop LF4 Medevac before it entered the runway,” the report says.

Chris Krepski, a
spokesperson for the safety board, confirmed that an investigation is
underway. He did not know how close the two aircraft got, saying that
information would be sought as part of the investigation.

A spokesperson for ORNGE said the helicopter’s pilots reported the incident to the agency’s own safety team.

“We are conducting our
own internal investigation in cooperation with Nav Canada, Transport
Canada and the Transportation Safety Board. There was no damage or
injury resulting from this occurrence,” Laurelle Knox told the Star in
an email.


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