Decisions

CAT File No. O-1420-02
MoT File No. 6504-P-163189-028414

CIVIL AVIATION TRIBUNAL

BETWEEN:

Robert Glenn MacDonald, Applicant

- and -

Minister of Transport, Respondent

LEGISLATION:
Aeronautics Act, S.C., c.A-2, s. 6.9
Air Regulations, C.R.C. 1978, c.2, s. 536(5)

Landing on Water


Review Determination
Philip D. Jardim


Decision: July 3, 1997

I find that Robert Glenn Macdonald did not contravene subsection 536(5) of the Air Regulations on June 21, 1996. I therefore dismiss the allegations of the Minister and cancel the seven-day suspension imposed by the Minister.

A Review Hearing on the above matter was held June 27, 1997 at 10:00 hours at the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto, Ontario.

BACKGROUND

Robert Glenn Macdonald was issued a Notice of Suspension as follows:

Pursuant to section 6.9 of the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport has decided to suspend the above indicated Canadian aviation document on the grounds that you have contravened the following provision(s):

Air Regulations, s. 536(5), in that on or about June 21, 1996, at or near Bradford Ontario, you as pilot-in-command of a Cesnna [sic] 180, registered as C-GEDL, landed on the Holland river when the landing path was not clear of all vessels.

On June 21, 1996, Robert Glenn Macdonald was the Captain of a Cessna 180 aircraft, registered C-GEDL. He landed on the Holland River near Bradford, Ontario at approximately 15:00 hours local time. Mr. Macdonald possessed current Transport Canada pilot qualifications and a valid medical certificate, which authorised him to operate that aircraft. These facts were agreed upon by the Minister and the Applicant prior to the Review Hearing.

The Minister's first two witnesses, Donald Cowie and Arthur Roberts, were in Mr. Cowie's boat on the same stretch of the Holland River at that time. They became alarmed that the aircraft would collide with another boat which was entering the river from Albert's Marina, some considerable distance up river. Mr. Cowie also expressed concern at the proximity of the aircraft to his vessel, and filed a report with Transport Canada. An investigation ensued, resulting in this Review Hearing.

THE LAW

Subsection 536(5) of the Air Regulations states:

(5) The pilot-in-command of an aircraft landing on or taking off from the water shall ensure that the landing or take-off path is clear of all vessels and aircraft.

THE EVIDENCE

All witnesses were excluded from the hearing at the outset until after they had given their testimony, except the Applicant, Mr. Macdonald.

The Minister's witnesses, Messrs. Cowie and Roberts, had widely differing estimates of the distance at which the aircraft passed their vessel: on the one hand, Mr. Cowie estimated that the aircraft touched down 80 to 100 feet behind his boat, and that its left wing tip passed two to six feet off the starboard side. On the other hand Mr. Roberts estimated that the aircraft touched down 70 to 100 yards behind their boat, and that its port wing tip passed 15 to 20 yards off their starboard side.

Mr. Cowie did not see the aircraft overfly the area before landing, but Mr. Roberts did. Although Mr. Roberts testified that the nearest point of approach of the port wing tip of the aircraft to their boat was 15 to 20 yards (45 to 60 feet) on a parallel track, he still expressed concern that the aircraft "damned near hit us."

Exhibits D-2 and D-3 highlight statements given to Transport Canada Inspector Jim Corbett by Messrs. Cowie and Roberts. These statements highlight their concern at the imminent danger of collision between the aircraft and the other boat which was sailing out of the Albert Marina. They estimated that it took some seven to ten minutes sailing time at 10 km/h, to reach the scene of the alleged near miss. Ten minutes at a speed of 10 km/h is 1.66 km, which is one mile. I cannot accept their (Cowie/Roberts) estimates of distance as being in any way accurate. Because their estimates vary so widely when the aircraft was nearest to them, their statements of imminent collision between the aircraft and "the Marina Boat" at a range of one half to one mile away, are likely to be even more inaccurate. Further, only one of the statements expresses any concern about the proximity of the aircraft to their vessel. This statement was that of Mr. Cowie, whose estimate of two to six feet is difficult to accept, when his colleague spoke of fifteen to twenty yards – 45 to 60 feet.

It is significant that the occupants of the other boat were not concerned about the incident, such that they could not be located by Transport Canada subsequently, and they did not see fit to file a report.

It may also be significant that Counsel for the Applicant advised the Hearing that Transport Canada only advised the Applicant, Mr. Macdonald, about the witnesses' intention to testify as to the proximity of the aircraft to Mr. Cowie's boat, on the Tuesday before this hearing. Mr. Clark drew this to my attention on two occasions.

The Applicant's witnesses and the Applicant himself gave consistent testimony that the aircraft overflew the alighting area and carried out a missed approach on the Holland River before finally touching down. This was substantiated by Mr. Roberts' testimony.

Although they saw the other boat coming out of the Marina unexpectedly, Mr. Macdonald had allowed enough of a margin within the performance limits of the aircraft to come to a safe stop such that the aircraft was safely clear of this unexpected boat.

They were all of the opinion that there was no compromise to safety and expressed surprise that an issue had been made of what they believed was a safe operation.

David Cobb stated that this was his first flight in a floatplane, and he was not concerned that his safety as a passenger had been compromised by Mr. Macdonald's actions on that day. He did not see the aircraft come threateningly close to any boat.

Paul David Cobb is an experienced helicopter pilot and is the Assistant Chief of Police in Pasadena Texas. He substantiated the Applicant's evidence that the aircraft never came near to any other boat on its landing run, let alone two to six feet away. There were boats in the channel, but none of them was in any way close to the landing path of the aircraft. He saw the boat coming out of the Marina when they were about 50 feet off the water. As the aircraft slowed down on its landing run, Mr. Macdonald applied right rudder to yaw the aircraft on the water to slow it up. By the time the aircraft approached the boat which had come out of the Marina, it was fully settled into the water at a slow taxi speed. He estimated that, at their closest point of approach, the aircraft and the "Marina Boat" were about 40 feet apart.

CONCLUSION

After careful consideration of all the testimony and having considerable water experience in seaplanes myself, I believe that Mr. Macdonald is a responsible pilot, and that his actions on that day were consistent with a high standard of airmanship: He overflew the alighting area first before attempting to land. He overshot the area on his first approach because of the presence of river traffic which would have endangered his aircraft.

I am satisfied that, on a balance of probabilities, Mr. Macdonald did not compromise the safety of his aircraft or of any vessel on the Holland River on June 21, 1996. I am satisfied that he did not violate subsection 536(5) of the Air Regulations.

The Minister's witnesses, perhaps well meaning in making a report, gave me the impression of a certain paranoia with Mr. Macdonald's aircraft, such that their judgement of distances, and what constitutes the safe operation of a floatplane were inaccurate. In the statements given to Transport Canada they seemed far more concerned about the safety of the boat which shot out of the Marina apparently into the path of the aircraft, than they were about any threat to their own vessel. I believe that they were not in a position to accurately assess the potential threat to safety, since they were too far away – by their own statements seven to ten minutes away from the Marina entrance at 10 km/h.

The question of a speed limit on the Holland River of 10 km/h cannot apply to an aircraft which is taking off or landing, since aircraft do not fly at those low speeds. Any reference to speed limits on the river is therefore irrelevant to the aircraft in this case.

DETERMINATION

At the conclusion of this Review Hearing, I have determined that Robert Glenn Macdonald did not contravene subsection 536(5) of the Air Regulations on June 21, 1996. I therefore dismiss the allegations of the Minister and cancel the seven-day suspension imposed by the Minister.

Philip D. Jardim
Member 
Civil Aviation Tribunal