L2015-01 A seaplane accident in Kuopio harbour on 4 July 2015
An accident occurred at 16:13 on 4 July, 2015 in the harbour of Kuopio. A Cessna 185C aircraft was damaged when it was taking off for a commercial air charter (water taxi) flight. The pilot aborted the take-off when the aircraft experienced rough, choppy waters. As the aircraft was decelerating, its nose turned to the left. At the same time the wind and the centrifugal force tipped it to its right so that the right float and the right wing made contact with the water. As a result, the aircraft turned sharply to the right, nosedived into the water up to the windshield and came to an abrupt halt. Owing to its slow speed the aircraft did not flip over or begin to sink. Rather, it floated on its pontoons. Nobody was hurt. In addition to the pilot there were four passengers on board. The aircraft sustained heavy damage in the accident.
The immediate cause of the accident was the inexperienced seaplane pilot’s decision to take off in a strong crosswind, and the ensuing loss of control of the aircraft in gusty wind and choppy waters. Shortcomings in the company’s safety management culture created favourable conditions for the onset of the accident. According to the company’s practice the pilot would make the decision to take-off, direction included, on the basis of getting a feel for the prevailing wave and wind conditions during taxiing. The pilot did not have much total or recent experience on seaplane flying. The company had not provided any written instructions to the pilot on managing risks in the harbour area nor any weather restrictions for sightseeing flights that would help the pilot’s decision-making regarding take-off. The company’s prior history of safety incidents in seaplane operations was not known to the pilot because no information on incidents was systematically collected or analysed. The company’s Operations Manual was of no use to the pilot when it comes to making the decision on taking off into a crosswind.
At present, operators can get their Operations Manuals approved by the authorities even if they do not sufficiently address the special characteristics of their operations (such as seaplane operations). The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport Safety Agency set a condition for approval regarding the operators’ Operation Manuals so that they correspond to the companies’ operations, special features included, and that they advance the safety of flight.