Decisions

CAT File No. W-1265-33
MoT File No. SAP-6504-P-309377-27776

CIVIL AVIATION TRIBUNAL

BETWEEN:

Minister of Transport, Applicant

- and -

Renee Marie Sward, Respondent

LEGISLATION:
Aeronautics Act, S.C., c. A-2, s. 7.7
Air Regulations, C.R.C. 1978, c. 2, s. 544

Insufficient fuel for a VFR flight


Review Determination
Fred W.R. Clarke


Decision: September 5, 1996

The allegation is upheld. I confirm the Minister's decision to assess a monetary penalty of $250.00. This amount, payable to the Receiver General for Canada, must be received by the Tribunal within fifteen days of service of this determination.

The Review Hearing on the above matter was held Wednesday, August 14, 1996 at 10:00 hours at the Court of Queens Bench in Calgary, Alberta.

BACKGROUND

The Notice of Assessment of Monetary Penalty reads in part as follows:

Pursuant to section 7.7 of the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport has decided to assess a monetary penalty on the grounds that you have contravened the following provision(s):

Air Regulation 544: It is alleged that on or about the 16th of January 1996, at or near Helmet, B.C., you did operate aircraft PA31, Canadian registration C-GQHV, in VFR flight when the required fuel carried on board was not sufficient to fly the aircraft to the place of intended landing and thereafter for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed contrary to Section 544(a) of the Air Regulations and thereby did commit an offense under Section 7.6.2 of the Aeronautics Act, R.S.C. 1985 c. A-2, as amended R.S.C. 1985 (lst Supp.) c. 33.

THE LAW

Section 544 states, in part:

544. The amount of fuel and oil carried on board any aircraft, other than a glider, a hang glider, a balloon or an ultra-light aeroplane, at the commencement of any VFR flight shall be sufficient, taking into account anticipated wind and other weather conditions, to fly to the place of intended landing and thereafter

(a) in the case of an aircraft other than a helicopter, for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed; and

(b) in the case of a helicopter, for 20 minutes at normal cruising speed.

THE EVIDENCE

The most compelling evidence submitted by the Case Presenting Officer was:

(a) The CADORS (Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System) report of January 16, 1996 stating that the aircraft GQHV, a PA31 Piper, was seven miles North off Rainbow Lake, Alberta when one engine ran out of fuel. The aircraft landed on one engine and taxied to the end of the runway where the second engine shut down.

(b) An in-house Incident/Accident Report filed by a passenger after the flight, wherein he states, in part: "About 3-4 miles from Rainbow the right side motor ran out of fuel and quit running. Just as we were about to land the other motor started to rev up & down causing the plane to zig zag. We finally got it landed and at the end of the runway the left-hand motor quit too (out of fuel)."

The Respondent (Renee Marie Sward) submitted three pieces of evidence. These were photocopies from the Navajo Chieftain manual, namely general specifications, altitude cruise speed, fuel consumption and range dated December, 13, 1974. A power setting table dated November 14, 1973, and range vs. density altitude chart dated November 14, 1973.

The Case Presenting Officer pointed out that he had a Manual in his possession that was up to date five years after the manual from which the Respondent had taken her photocopies. This manual was dated 1979 and it was way out of date, implying that the Manuals in use in the aircraft in question could be years behind in published revisions.

The Respondent gave her explanation of the trip in question and indicated that the heater went out during the flight out of Red Deer, Alberta. She added that it could not be checked as the reset switch was accessible only from outside the aircraft by removing a panel. Outside temperature was minus forty and the inside temperature was extremely cold causing her teeth to chatter. Despite this she chose to fly over both Peace River and Rainbow Lake, and she proceeded to Helmut, B.C.

On landing at Helmut she removed the panel and activated the reset switch which gave them heat for the return flight. She claimed that she could not dip the tanks on the Navajo but felt she had enough fuel to get back to Rainbow Lake. She did indicate that she had not received a great deal of training in the area of fuel management, but stated that four-hour flights were not uncommon for her aircraft.

CONCLUSION

I understand the difficulties in flying charter. The pilot walks that thin line between pleasing the customer and adhering to company policy. In this case, given the extreme temperatures during the flight i.e. minus 40 or lower, a pilot must exercise good judgement. The fact that two groups of six passengers were transported to and from Helmut should give extra concern for an adequate fuel supply.

The Respondent reported that the company has since revised its Operations Manual and now limits flight time to three hours before refuelling. At best the aircraft should have landed at either Peace River or Rainbow Lake to take on fuel on the way up to Helmut. At worst she should have taken on some fuel at Helmut from a local operator.

DETERMINATION

There is no doubt that the aircraft ran out of fuel – one engine while still in the air and one on the taxi in at Rainbow Lake. Mrs. Sward's defence that other flights of four hours had recently taken place on the same aircraft, that her fuel management training had not been extensive and that the extreme cold may have affected her thinking do not excuse her from her responsibility as "pilot­-in-command" with total responsibility for the aircraft and her passengers. I do believe that Mrs. Sward is, and will be, a much better pilot from this experience.

I confirm the Minister's decision to assess a monetary penalty of $250.00.

Fred W.R. Clarke
Member
Civil Aviation Tribunal