A faulty gyroscope is not likely the cause of a fatal Alberta plane crash that left a three-kilometre-long trail of debris, says a U.S. plane crash expert who added that among many possible causes, a bomb can’t be ruled out.
Alan Yurman, a former air safety director for the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S., says a broken gyroscope, that’s used to level an aircraft during flight, would only be an issue if visibility were poor.
Five people died Friday morning when the light plane crashed near Wainwright. No severe weather events were reported outside Edmonton that morning, where it was partly cloudy with a slight breeze.
“If it’s cloudy and rainy, a pilot could get disorientated and could make the plane go into an unusual manoeuver — this could over stress the airplane and cause it to break apart,” said Yurman
Contact with a bird, failure of the airplane’s structure and depressurizing due to an open door or window could also cause the plane to fall apart, according to Yurman.
“Of course, as an investigator, you can’t rule out the possibility of a bomb,” he said.
Media reports cited air traffic control as saying the Piper Malibu PA-46 was having trouble with its gyroscope a short time before the plane disappeared off the radar.
John Cottreau, a spokesman with Transport Canada’s Safety Board, couldn’t confirm if the plane was having equipment problems before it broke up in mid-flight.
He said investigators have started to move the wreck to a facility in Edmonton and will take a close look at the weather conditions when the collision happened.
“(Investigators) are still in data gathering mode right now and the analysis has yet to begin,” said Cottreau, noting the wreck stretched three kilometres in Battle River country, about 425 km northeast of Calgary.
The plane was piloted by Reagan Williams, president of Edmonton-based A.D. Williams Engineering. Other victims included the company’s chief financial officer, Phil Allard, and a company executive, Rhonda Quirke, who were all on their way to Winnipeg from Edmonton.
The other two passengers included Edmonton residents Trevor John Korol, 36 and Shaun Michael Stewart, 35.