Student pilot injured in crash recovering at Saint John hospital
Chinese pilot | Flight school CEO says language barrier not a factor in Fredericton airport crash
THE DAILY GLEANER
November 24, 2007
The student pilot critically injured in a plane crash at Fredericton International Airport two weeks ago is recovering well, says the director of the Moncton Flight College.
Ding Liang is recuperating at the Saint John Regional Hospital after his plane left the runway on landing and crashed into an embankment Nov. 10. Liang cut his face and broke bones in his forehead during the crash.
Mike Doiron, the flight college's principal and CEO, said the student pilot, who is in his early 20s, is on the mend.
"He's doing very, very well and everything is heading in the right direction, " he said.
"He'll be in the hospital for quite a while yet as he's going to be undergoing some various reparative surgeries. But as far as his medical condition as a result of the accident, he's actually quite good."
Doiron said the student pilot will have to undergo several tests before being allowed to fly again.
The tests, which will take between six months and a year to complete, are used to test a pilot's physical capabilities.
Doiron said Liang is optimistic he'll get to complete the program.
"That's all he talks about," he said. "That's all he wants to do is get back to Fredericton and start his studies all over again. He's just cracking to get back in an airplane."
The Transportation Safety Board allowed the Moncton Flight College to conduct its own investigation into the incident. The college operates a school in Fredericton in addition to its Moncton operation.
Mike Cunningham, regional director for the Transportation Safety Board's Atlantic division, said it would be impossible for his organization to investigate every incident.
"If we did, we'd have another huge investigation, with a huge budget and that would be quite a burden on the tax-paying Canadian," he said.
"Our mandate is to investigate occurrences where we see the opportunity to enhance transportation safety. We're always able to provide advice or guidance."
At the time of the incident, two workers connected to the airport speculated that language barriers may have played some role in the incident.
Cunningham said he doesn't believe language was a factor in the crash.
"The information we have is somewhat limited because we're not conducting a full investigation," he said. "But if I could offer an opinion, if you think of the situation itself, the aircraft was about to touch down on the runway and all of a sudden the pilot ran into difficulty. At that stage of the flight, there's absolutely no communication going on whatsoever between the aircraft and the air traffic control unit, so how could it possibly play a role?"
Doiron said the college's investigation has yet to uncover any evidence that language played a role in the crash.
"Language wasn't an issue as far as we can see," he said.
"And we spend an inordinate amount of time doing English second-language training. They have to write written tests, so we're not just guessing that he understands (the course material). They have to prove to us that they understand it before they're allowed to take a plane up.
"It's not in our interest to give somebody a very expensive airplane and let them just go out there."
Doiron said the investigation is ongoing. But he expects some changes will be made to try to ensure mistakes aren't repeated.
"It usually takes between six months to a year to put one of these investigations to bed; however our preliminary indications are that it was just a bad landing," he said.
"Any time you have an incident, as part of our safety-management system, we review any kind of incident -- whether it involves injuries or damages or not -- and make adjustments to improve in any way we can. But odds are there will be some changes put in place."