News release

Loss of situational awareness and control likely caused fatal 2013 Manitoba helicopter accident

Winnipeg, Manitoba, 17 July 2014  – In the release of its investigation report (A13C0073) today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada cited the loss of situational awareness and loss of control as the likely causes of a fatal helicopter crash at Gull Lake, Manitoba, in July of 2013.

At 4 pm Central Daylight Time, on 1 July 2013,  the Bell 206B helicopter, operated by Custom Helicopters Ltd., left Gillam Lake, Manitoba, for Gull Lake, to pick up a work crew. At 830 pm the helicopter was declared missing. A search ensued and debris was found the following morning along the shore line of Gull Lake. The pilot was fatally injured.

The examination of the small amount of wreckage that was recovered indicated that the helicopter had struck the water at high speed and was destroyed. The investigation concluded that the pilot likely flew into an area of lower visibility, due to either heavy smoke in the area or rain showers, or both. This likely contributed to a loss of situational awareness and would have reduced the pilot’s ability to maintain control of the helicopter. The helicopter descended and struck the water before the pilot was able to regain adequate visual reference.

The TSB cautions that if commercial helicopter pilots do not have basic instrument flying skills, there is an increased risk of a loss of situational awareness and control in situations where visual flight continues into poor meteorological conditions.

Custom Helicopters Ltd. has since incorporated additional standards into its operations that pilots shall meet prior to being dispatched to work in wildfire operations.


The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053
Email: media@tsb.gc.ca