'This is our decision alone': MRU grounds Tecnam planes as crash investigation continues

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'This is our decision alone': MRU grounds Tecnam planes as crash investigation continues

Mount Royal University is voluntarily grounding the aviation school's two remaining twin-engine Tecnam planes as an investigation into a crash that killed two instructors continues.

Jeffrey Bird and Reynold Johnson died when a Tecnam P2006T went down in the Waiparous area, roughly 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, on Feb. 13.

Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigators have been conducting tests on the wreckage at an Edmonton lab, doing interviews and listening to audio recordings as they try to piece together what happened.

At an update held in Edmonton earlier this week, a senior investigator said all of the major aircraft components were found at the accident site but were destroyed by the crash impact and a post-impact fire, adding that it's too early in the investigation to say whether human error or mechanical issues caused the crash.

"We have decided to voluntarily ground the two remaining Tecnams," said Leon Cygman, chair of the aviation program on Thursday. "This is our decision alone. Given this tragedy — and with safety as our top priority — we want to get all the facts. We are acting with caution until we receive complete reviews, including our own internal review and the findings of the TSB investigation."

Aviation students return to class

Aviation students will still be able to fly five single-engine Cessna 172 planes. Mount Royal is also looking leasing two more twin-engine airplanes and having students train through other flight schools.

"For second-year students this may delay program completion. This is disappointing news for them. We know they are eager to graduate and join the aviation industry. Because we care about their success, this is disappointing to us too," he said.

The program will also be advertising for new flight instructors to "help the program return to a full complement of instructors."

Aviation students returned to classes on Monday.

 "We always have those two instructors in the back of our minds, but all we can do is move on and keep doing what we are doing,"  said Luc Sinal, who spoke on behalf of his class.

Sinal said while he has no concerns about flying the Tecnams, he understands Mount Royal University's decision.

"We are disappointed with the news, but we understand and accept this decision," he said. "As we are all in different spots in our flight training, the school is helping us finish as soon as possible."

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