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Air Canada AC624 Crash: Too Soon To Blame Pilots, Safety Expert Says

03/30/2015 05:01 EDT | Updated 05/29/2015 05:59 EDT
A dozen Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators will begin examining the wreckage of Air Canada Flight AC624 this morning, but aviation experts warn against rushing to judgment about what caused the crash at the Halifax airport.

The investigators will search the debris field where the plane crash landed early Sunday with 138 people aboard.

It would be "singularly inappropriate" to immediately blame the pilots, safety expert Jock Williams cautioned.

The safety board says such investigations are complicated, and it will take time to get to the bottom of what led to the Airbus A320 crash during snowy weather at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Jock Williams, a former military pilot and retired Transport Canada flight safety officer, says the pilots could be at fault, but investigators will also probe:

- Aircraft design.

- Possible instruments problems.

- Any other outside factors that could be to blame.

"Obviously the weather was marginal," Williams told CBC News.

"But they didn't go down there thinking that they were going to land short, break the gear off, hit the ground. They went down thinking, ‘We'll take a look and if everything is good, we'll land.' And I'm sure that's what they intended to do.

"Something went amiss. And when we find out what went amiss, we'll be able to prevent it or try to prevent it, and further accidents."

Twenty-three people were taken to hospital after the crash. None suffered critical injuries.

The TSB said Sunday evening that AC624 touched down more than 300 metres short of the runway, and smashed through an antenna array and power line before finally skidding to a stop.

Excellent safety record

Air Canada says the two pilots guiding the plane have been with the airline for 15 years and have extensive experience with Airbus A320s.

Air Canada also has a good safety rating, according to AirlineRatings.com, which gives it seven out of seven stars. Another safety website, Jacdec, last year ranked Air Canada the fourth-best airline in the world for safety.

The last major crash at the Halifax airport was in 2004, when a cargo plane crashed during takeoff, killing all seven aboard.

After an investigation that took nearly two years, the TSB concluded fatigue and lack of training contributed to the crash of MK Airlines Limited Flight 1602.

Investigators said it was impossible to know exactly what happened because the flight voice recorder was destroyed in the fire. They did determine, however, that the crew had been awake for 20 hours by the time the plane attempted takeoff.

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Air Canada Flight AC624 Crash