EDMONTON - Students resumed pilot training at Calgary's Mount Royal University flying school on Monday as an investigator said that determining what caused a plane crash that killed two experienced instructors will be challenging.
Pilot Jeffrey Bird and co-pilot Reynold Johnson died Feb. 13 when their twin-engine P2006T Tecnam aircraft went down northwest of Calgary.
Fred Burow of the Transportation Safety Board said the plane did not break up in the air. Its major parts were destroyed in the crash and the resulting fire.
Burow said experts are still gathering and analyzing information about the aircraft and the pilots, but the plane wasn't carrying — nor was it required to carry — a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder.
"The absence of these recorders does make the investigation more challenging," Burow said at a briefing in Edmonton. "The so-called black boxes that are required in larger aircraft do make things easier for the investigation."
The university grounded its flight training program immediately following the Feb. 13 crash.
Mount Royal vice-president Duane Anderson said the university's program is safe and instructors began flying again last week. Students were being allowed to resume flying Monday on a voluntary basis.
Anderson said students were being told to sit in the cockpit for at least five minutes until they felt comfortable. Once they took off, they were to circle the area three times before heading to the flight training area — the same region northwest of Calgary where the two instructors died.
"Before any planes take off, it will be rigorously inspected and approved by a qualified aircraft maintenance engineer," he said.
"Some students are very comfortable and eager and want to get back in the planes."
Burow said the transportation board has no safety concerns about the Tecnam aircraft, which is certified by Transport Canada and is flown in Europe and the United States.
The board said the plane that crashed took off at about 4:35 p.m. on Feb. 13 and climbed to an altitude of about 2,400 metres. Based on radar information, it was last detected at a slightly lower altitude before it crashed about 30 minutes later.
Burow said preliminary data suggests the plane, which can fly safely on one engine, did not lose altitude gradually.
"It does appear with the initial radar information that we have and the location of the site that it was what I would consider a more rapid descent to that final site."
The Transportation Safety Board said it has been asking Transport Canada since 1991 to upgrade its requirements for flight recorder equipment.
More recently, the board has been urging the aircraft industry to take advantage of new, low-cost flight recording technology that can be installed in smaller aircraft.
Five people have died in accidents since the flight program at Mount Royal began in 1970.
The university said there was a fatal crash in 1973 and another in 1974. In 1989, a crewman from another flight operator died in a mid-air collision with a plane piloted by a Mount Royal instructor.