Footage of Plane Collapse Raises Concerns about Lifeflight Bidders

Kinew: Keep Lifeflight Public to Protect Patient Safety

September 20, 2018

The Manitoba NDP shared footage of a King Air E90 plane whose landing gear collapsed as it landed on the runway at Thompson Airport on September 9th, 2018. The plane was owned by SkyNorth. The Manitoba NDP have learned SkyNorth is one of twelve private companies who have bid on the Pallister government’s RFP for Lifeflight services which closes September 23rd.

On the day of the incident the plane had two pilots and a nurse on board. It was leaving Thompson Airport, bound for Island Lake to respond to a medical call, when the pilots were unable to get the landing gear locked. The plane was forced to circle the airport before attempting to land. At impact the plane’s landing gear collapsed causing significant damage to the aircraft and rupturing its fuel system, according to the Thompson Firefighter’s Association. No injuries were reported and the incident was investigated by Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

“The footage of this plane’s landing is harrowing to watch, especially when we remember this plane could be transporting a patient in critical condition,” said Leader of the Manitoba NDP Wab Kinew. “Lifeflight delivers essential health care services for our most vulnerable. Under a publicly owned structure there is no incentive to fly for profit or reward and there is less risk to patients. Pallister needs to stop privatizing Lifeflight and cancel the RFP today”, said Kinew.

The Government’s RFP has already opened the door to weakening safety regulations. One provision allows flight crews to not meet minimum safety requirements while another provision would allow for the use of unpressurized aircraft. Evidence is clear that pressurized cabins are crucial to patient care.

Kinew also noted a recently released expert report on the province’s plan to privatize Government Air Services, including Lifeflight, found the current public system has many advantages over private alternatives and a strong track record of safety. In an appendix that listed almost thirty TSB investigations into incidents with private carriers, there have been twenty-three fatalities and thirty-three serious injuries since 1994. There was only one investigation into a Government Air service Flight in 1999, which had no fatalities or injuries and which was found to be caused by the directions of air traffic controllers, not Government Air Services.

“The fact is the public Lifeflight model is safer. It has better quality planes with more experienced pilots and better safety regulations to ensure patients get the care they need,” said Kinew. “The safety of patients and quality of health care should never be compromised for profit.”