The Dryden Crash and its Consequences

Dryden crash
Dryden Crash

The Dryden crash, and the subsequent inquiry by Justice Virgil Moshansky, marked a turning point in Canadian aviation.

On March 10, 1989 Air Ontario Flight 1363 crashed near Dryden, Ontario immediately after take-off due to ice and snow on the wings, causing the death of 21 of 65 passengers and 3 of 4 crew members.

This incident followed hard on the heels of the crash at Gander which killed all 256 passengers and crew on board. The inquiry into the Gander crash was widely criticized as having been mishandled, and the investigating agency, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) was subsequently scrapped.

Dryden Report
The Dryden Report

In this investigative vacuum Justice Virgil Moshansky was asked to conduct a public inquiry into the Dryden crash. He insisted upon, and received, the authority to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into all aspects of the Canadian aviation system that might have contributed to the accident.

His inquiry ultimately lasted three years and produced a 1,712-page report in four volumes (including technical appendices), with extensive recommendations. It was effectively a damning indictment of many aspects of Canadian aviation at that time, and the recommendations provided the foundation for a major overhaul of Canada's aviation safety system. In addition, the findings regarding ice build-up on wings led to a better technical understanding of this phenomenon, and enabled Canada to become a world leader in preventive measures.

Justice Virgil Moshansky
Justice Virgil Moshansky

Moshansky, who continues to follow the aviation industry closely, has become concerned in recent years that air safety in Canada is in decline. In 2007 he issued a scathing condemnation of Ottawa's move to give Canada's air carriers greater responsibility to oversee the safety of their operations. He told the Commons transport committee "Today, 18 years after Dryden, history is repeating itself, only worse."


For more information:

Air Safety In Canada: an Overview

Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Media articles about air safety in Canada

Video: an interview with air safety advocate Kirsten Stevens

External resources: a new website focused on air safety