11/19/2014 02:10 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST

Air taxis prompt Ottawa probe after 175 crash deaths

Canadian safety regulators are launching an investigation into air taxis, concerned over the numbers of deaths associated with those operations each year.

Announced Tuesday evening, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the probe will aim to determine why that sector of the aviation industry has seen 175 deaths over the last decade, dating back to 2004.

"We'll be analyzing historical data and case studies of selected accidents in Canada as well as occurrences from other nations," said TSB chair Kathy Fox. "We'll also be engaging industry, the regulator and other stakeholders in the coming months to gain a full understanding of the issues affecting air taxi operations."

At focus will be single and multi-engine planes (except for turbo jets) that seat nine or fewer people, excluding pilot seats. They're also referred to as 703 carriers.

Their services are often used to transport miners and other workers to remote locations, or groups of people to hunting or fishing camps that are difficult to access.

Last year, of the 39 accidents involving Canadian-registered commercial planes, 18 of them were air taxis. Five were fatal, with 19 people killed.

"We want to take a closer look at why that is, and hopefully identify safety deficiencies and make recommendations that will make this sector safer," said TSB spokesperson Chris Krepski.

The safety board has said for several years the government should make changes to air taxi regulations. One suggestion is to require flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders on those aircraft, since the recorders are already required on larger ones and 94 per cent of commercial air accidents are with small aircraft.

The TSB says it will begin its investigation early next year, after which the board could make recommendations to the government