What I learned from accident reports, and meeting Luc
I took an accident analysis course in 1999 and got more out of it than just learning about 'what happened'. The students would read different accident reports, respond to a few written prompts, and then share our reflections and perspectives in open discussion with the class. That course contributed to my “big picture” awareness in such a lasting way! Through those discussions I learned to be less judgmental, and more interested about why the people involved in the accidents did what they did. And going forward, I learned to inquire into my own behaviours and consider why I’m compelled to do what I do.
About 6 years after that course, and with a few thousand hours on floats and skis, I took a Twin Otter job in Malé, Maldives. That’s where I met my roommate, Luc Fortin. He and I had a lot in common, including our flying background and a keen interest in refining our "craft" of operating airplanes in the most professional ways possible. Before long I was looking forward to the evenings where Luc and I met back at our flat to discuss flying scenarios from our days, much like how my class reflected on accident reports. For example, one of us would talk about an approach or landing we may do differently next time; the other would listen, and contribute whatever might be appropriate. Repeat. Sometimes we would dismantle aspects of a single flight for a whole evening! Our relationship felt mutually supportive. We would often tease each other about who touched down on their mark and needed nothing more than flat pitch to decelerate - and who missed their mark! Or, who made the least amount of noise at the dock when there was no wind. Various pilot-technique stuff like that. Regardless, whoever got back to Malé first after sunrise would often have a cup of coffee waiting for the other.
That's Luc in March of 2006, as we were heading home after a dawn patrol shift.
Not to be forgotten
On October 27, 2011, Luc died in a King Air accident while on approach to 26L at YVR. Briefly, here’s what happened: About 15-minutes after departure from YVR, Luc and his FO noticed oil leaking from the left engine. They turned back and started a descent while referencing the Low Oil Pressure checklist. Luc elected to keep the left engine running at reduced power, and did not feather the prop. The descent and approach were uneventful until the gear and landing flap were extended. At that point, airspeed quickly decayed, Luc added power to the right engine, and at about 300’ he lost control of the airplane. Here’s a link to the TSB report if you want to read more about it.
I still visualize being back in our flat in Malé, where I am describing to Luc the particulars of that future afternoon at YVR, including how he is going to die. I picture him shaking his head at me, incredulously, “Ohh Gordo! Don’t worry dude!!” (laughing, getting up from the couch with his scotch), “I won’t be doing that!!” He puts his glass down on the kitchen counter and walks away.