‘Improbable’ events set stage for Pearson near-disaster, report says

July 30 2014 05:15PM


OTTAWA—An old radar, a driverless van, a 7-watt lightbulb and garbled communications all contributed to a near-collision at Pearson International Airport when a landing Air Canada jet passed just 10 metres over a vehicle that had rolled onto a runway, a safety watchdog says.

“That’s the amazing thing with this one. You get a series of very improbable events and they all line up,” said Ewan Tasker, a regional senior investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

“It’s just incredible,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

He said the March 11, 2013 incident is a reminder why in aviation “every tiny, little detail matters.

“These crazy, unlikely things can happen. Luckily in this case we can all learn a lesson from it without anyone getting hurt,” Tasker said.

The safety board’s final report released Wednesday lays out the series of events that conspired to cause a near-disaster at Canada’s busiest airport.

It began near midnight when a technician servicing a jet parked at the airport’s east end got out of his van but left the motor running — in contravention of airport rules — and accidentally left it in gear.

Unnoticed in the darkness, the van began a slow roll across the apron, clipping the engine cowling of the parked jet and then continued in the direction of Runway 24 Right — and a potential collision with an Air Canada Embraer jet that was arriving from Edmonton.

In the control tower, the radar used to track vehicles and aircraft on the ground showed a slow-moving target and as it travelled onto the runway, air traffic controllers urgently tried to figure out what it was. One controller used binoculars to scan the area but was unable to spot anything.

Recognizing that the Air Canada jet, with five crew and 67 passengers onboard, was about to land on that very runway, a controller radioed instructions for the pilots to “pull up and go around.”

However, the crew missed that instruction because it coincided with a louder, automated altitude call-out in the cockpit.

Not getting a response, the controller again ordered the Air Canada crew to abandon their landing. But in this second call, the controller’s clipped instructions caused the jet’s call-sign to be truncated and the pilots — at this point just 37 metres off the ground — thought the instruction was for someone else and continued to a safe landing.

The jet had passed just 11 metres directly over the van, which the pilots never saw in the darkness.

Tasker’s investigation revealed that the ground radar system, an older version which has since been replaced, did not provide a timely alert to the looming conflict as intended.

The probe also found that the orange beacon atop the van — required of all vehicles at the airport — had only a 7-watt bulb, far dimmer than rules mandate. That weak bulb hindered efforts by controllers to spot the van from the control tower.

Finally, the controller’s instructions to “go around,” although clipped, failed to register with the pilots who, in the final stages of their approach, were expecting a “typical, non-eventful landing.”

“Without other supporting cues such as visually sighting an obstacle, the crew did not interpret the instruction to apply to them,” the report said. “Consequently, the communication was insufficient to challenge the flight crew’s mental model of the situation.”

The van was later discovered in the grass where it had clipped a taxiway sign. Its engine was running, headlights were on and the transmission was in drive.

In the wake of the incident, the safety board says that Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson airport, has reinforced its rules that require drivers to turn off vehicles and apply the parking brake before leaving them unattended.

Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov reverts to favourite jersey number

July 29 2014 03:43PM

Nail Yakupov may be sporting a new number for the 2014-15 NHL season, but he said it’ll still be the same name on the back of his sweater.“It’s my favourite number from a long time ago,” he said Thursday during the Edmonton Oilers’ hockey school at Servus Credit Union Place. “So yeah, why not, if you have a chance to change it. “I don’t want to say anything is going to change my game or something,” he continued. “I don’t want to talk a lot about this number. I just change number.”

Oilers' Yakupov putting rough season behind him

July 29 2014 12:58PM

EDMONTON -- Nail Yakupov has moved on.

After spending the majority of the offseason in Russia, the Edmonton Oilers' right wing has returned to prepare for the upcoming NHL season, having put a disappointing second season behind him.

"It mi...

Fake passengers booked so Alison Redford could fly alone, auditor says

July 29 2014 09:47AM


EDMONTON—CBC News is reporting that Alberta’s auditor general found “false passengers” were booked on some government flights so that then-premier Alison Redford could fly alone.

The auditor found Redford’s staff blocked others from flying by booking seats in advance and then removing passenger names before printing the flight manifest.

Merwan Saher’s finding are in an internal report to the government obtained by CBC News.

Saher also concluded that Redford derived a personal benefit by taking her daughter on dozens of government flights and used a government plane when there were commercial options.

Redford resigned as premier on March 23 ahead of a caucus revolt due in large part to her lavish spending.

The auditor’s report says Redford and her former chief of staff denied any knowledge of the altered passenger lists.

Lucky man scores $348,534 in Eskimos 50/50 draw

July 25 2014 02:06PM


Edmontonian scored touchdown of his own

Oilers add Tony Borgford to Barons staff

July 24 2014 11:00AM

The Edmonton Oilers announced today, they have appointed Tony Borgford as Assistant Coach and Manager of Hockey Operations for the Oklahoma City Barons.

Borgford, 39, joins the Barons after serving as a Video Coordinator/Coach for the past thre...

On the air

July 23 2014 10:00PM

<table class="story-table"><col class="story-table-column"/><col class="story-table-column"/><col class="story-table-column"/><tbody class="story-table-body"><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">BASEBALL</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">MLB: </span>Rangers @ Yankees</td><td class="story-table-data">1:05 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">MLBN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Radio:</span> WMEN 640</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">MLB: </span>Marlins @ Braves</td><td class="story-table-data">7:10 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">FSNF</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Radio:</span> WINZ 940, WAQI 710 (Spanish)</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">MLB: </span>Padres @ Cubs</td><td class="story-table-data">8:05 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">WGN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">MLB: </span>Orioles @ Mariners</td><td class="story-table-data">10:10 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">MLBN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">BASKETBALL</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">WNBA: </span>Phoenix @ Los Angeles</td><td class="story-table-data">10:30 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">NBATV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">CYCLING</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Tour de France: </span>Stage 18</td><td class="story-table-data">8 a.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">NBCSN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">FOOTBALL</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">CFL: </span>Calgary @ Edmonton </td><td class="story-table-data">9 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">ESPN2</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">GOLF</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">European: </span>Russian Open</td><td class="story-table-data">8 a.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">GOLF</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">LPGA: </span>International Crown</td><td class="story-table-data">11:30 a.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">GOLF</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Senior: </span>British Open</td><td class="story-table-data">Noon</td><td class="story-table-data">ESPN2</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">PGA: </span>Canadian Open</td><td class="story-table-data">4 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">GOLF</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">SOCCER</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Champions: </span>Olympiakos-AC Milan at New York</td><td class="story-table-data">8 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">FS1ESPND</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">MLS: </span>Real Salt Lake @ Montreal</td><td class="story-table-data">10 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">UNID</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">TENNIS</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">ATP: </span>Atlanta Round of 16</td><td class="story-table-data">4 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">TEN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">ATP: </span>Atlanta Round of 16</td><td class="story-table-data">6 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">TEN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">ATP: </span>Atlanta Round of 16</td><td class="story-table-data">8 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">TEN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">ATP: </span>Umag early round (T)</td><td class="story-table-data">10 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">TEN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">ATP: </span>Umag early round (T)</td><td class="story-table-data">Midnight</td><td class="story-table-data">TEN</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data">VOLLEYBALL</td><td class="story-table-data">TIME</td><td class="story-table-data">TV</td></tr><tr class="story-table-row"><td class="story-table-data"> <span class="bold">Beach: </span>World Series women’s and men’s grand slam pool play (T)</td><td class="story-table-data">11 p.m.</td><td class="story-table-data">NBCSN</td></tr></tbody></table>

Edmonton Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl adjusting to big-league expectations

July 23 2014 05:59PM

It was only recently that Leon Draisaitl was finally able to exhale — in between squats, of course. He had bounced from the National Hockey League combine to the draft day podium as the third pick overall then it was on to the Edmonton Oilers’ development camp.

Jean-François Houle named head coach of Bakersfield Condors

July 23 2014 02:48PM

The Edmonton Oilers announced today, that Jean-François (J.F.) Houle has been named the sixth head coach in Bakersfield Condors history. Houle replaces Troy Mann, who was named head coach of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears earlier this ...

'Downton Abbey' fans in for shocking twists, as critics get peek at season five

July 23 2014 06:19AM


Spoiler Alert: This story has references to events in seasons four and five.

BEVERLY HILLS—Portraying a lady’s maid who gets sexually assaulted in Downton Abbey has been the most “meaningful thing of my career,” says the actress who plays Anna Bates in the popular PBS soap opera.

“I think it has connected with people who have gone through a similar experience and given them a voice,” says Joanne Froggatt about her controversial role in season four. “As an actress, my first thought was this was a huge responsibility. I have taken this more seriously than anything else I could possibly have done.”

The rape scene created an outpouring of rage from fans, especially since Anna represents the moral centre of the show.

Froggatt says she was “surprised” when she first read the script.

“I tried to research and get into the headspace of Anna,” she said.

Since then she has heard from sexual-assault victims who said they could relate to what the character was going through.

“They were pleased the show had done the storyline.”

Executive producer Gareth Neame argued that Downton was not trying to be sensationalistic, but is tackling relevant issues.

“We know it was shocking to many people, and if the characters are harmed in any way, people feel it, and we are cognizant of that,” said Neame. “But this is about the times where women with no money or no careers are very vulnerable. We have had responses from women who were very positive.”

Froggatt says she is proud of the work she has done on season five, which begins airing on PBS Jan. 4. The crew still has about a month of shooting to do before they wrap.

“Anna goes into season five obviously changed by what’s happened to her. There are a lot of questions. She and Bates (Anna’s husband, played by Brendan Coyle) are keeping secrets from each other to protect the other person. They sense they are not being honest with each other,” says Froggatt.

“There is drama, love, comedy, all of those elements. I’m really proud of season five. It’s a real mixture. There’s new, there’s old. I hope everyone will really enjoy it.”

Neame says the show picks up six months after season four ends and promises some “substantial twists and turns.”

However, popular characters played by Shirley MacLaine (Martha) and Paul Giamatti (Harold Levinson), who play the American relations, will not be back for season five, says Neame.

‘They may be back in future seasons,” he says.

Television critics were given an exclusive peek at clips from the upcoming season, and it looks like Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is well on her way to finding a new romance after the death of her husband.

“She’s very complex. She’s impulsive and makes these decisions, and once she goes through with it, she realizes it’s not quite the right decision,” says Dockery. “This series, she’s quite impulsive. And she’s embracing it. She’s through the grief now. It’s the new Mary, she has a bit of her bite back.”

In other news, PBS President and Chief Executive Paula Kerger says that Downton will continue to be aired in the U.S. months after it has already aired in Britain. This has been a bone of contention with some fans who end up navigating a minefield of spoilers for the show and much criticism for PBS.

“January works really well for the series, because I think people get through the holidays. They’re out of the clutter of the fall. It’s dark most places in the country and cold many places in the country, and I think people look forward to it,” says Kerger.

In the most recent season, the audience grew by 16 per cent, adds Kerger, proving that people will wait to have that “collective experience.”

Benoit Pouliot believes he will offer Edmonton Oilers consistent performance

July 22 2014 05:29PM

Benoit Pouliot had 10 points (plus eight) for the Rangers in their run to the Stanley Cup final, but there was no money in the cupboard to resign him. He had a collection of suitors, though — one team offered a six-year deal, one more than the Oilers signed him for (five at $20 million).

New Edmonton Oilers winger Teddy Purcell aims to shoot more often

July 22 2014 05:28PM

Teddy Purcell has come full circle after being traded to the Edmonton Oilers, seven years after his first NHL game at Rexall Place. He was a deer in the headlights back then.

Four new Oilers see great promise in Edmonton

July 22 2014 01:31PM

EDMONTON -- Four of the Edmonton Oilers' offseason acquisitions are getting familiar with their new playing environment.

Defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Fayne, and forwards Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell, are in Edmonton this week doing some...

Khadr access blocked, prompting media court challenge

July 22 2014 04:00AM


Canadian prison officials are refusing to let the public hear from former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, repeatedly denying interview requests despite the fact that Khadr is willing to talk after 12 years of custody and may soon be released.

After nearly two years of failed attempts to access Khadr, the Toronto Star, CBC and White Pine Pictures will ask a federal court Tuesday to review the actions of Correctional Service Canada, arguing that denying interviews breaches the constitutional guarantee of the public’s right to know.

One federal penitentiary warden refused a Star request, stating it was for Khadr’s own good so as to not increase his “notoriety,” despite the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and public safety ministers often comment publicly on the case. At Bowden Institution, where 27-year-old Khadr is currently being held, the warden denied access, citing concerns that an interview would disrupt the facility’s operations or expose the prison staff to risk, although Khadr has been granted numerous other visits from the public.

In another instance, a warden at Millhaven Institution approved a request for an interview only to be overruled 90 minutes later by then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, indicating political interference in a process that should be independent.

“What is it about what Omar Khadr has to say that has the government afraid?” Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney said in an interview. “The Harper government has spent years wrongly portraying Omar Khadr to the Canadian public, while ensuring he is unable to respond. It is in the public’s interest that Canadians see and hear from him so they can make up their own minds.”

Khadr’s case has captivated and divided Canadians since July 2002, when he was shot and captured at the age of 15 during a firefight with American forces in Afghanistan, but he has never been interviewed.

U.S. Sergeant First Class Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye during the 2002 firefight and has since retired from the military, is among those who want to see Khadr questioned on camera. “I’d love to hear what he’s going to say and I’d love to be able to make a judgment on what I think about what he has to say,” Morris said during an interview in Utah late last year.

Morris said he is not surprised to hear Khadr is eligible for full parole and could be released this year. “On some level, you have to say, OK, the kid was 15 and regardless of what he’s become he at least deserves a chance,” Morris said. “If Omar Khadr demonstrates by his actions that he wants to be a contributing member to western society — you know, get a job, white picket fence, all that kind of stuff — then at some point, yeah he probably does deserve a shot at that.”

Khadr was transferred to Canada in September 2012 and has been eligible for parole since last July, but has not yet applied. His statutory release date is in 2016, having served two-thirds of his sentence.

While much has been reported on Khadr, the divisive nature of his case has made him a symbol for both far right and left — a caricature — portrayed alternatively as an unrepentant terrorist and a modern-day Nelson Mandela.

The Pentagon charged Khadr with five war crimes in 2005, including murder in violation of the laws of war for the fatal wounding during the firefight of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

In October 2010, Khadr accepted a Pentagon plea deal that gave him an eight-year sentence and a chance to be transferred to Canada if he confessed to throwing the grenade that killed Speer. Khadr recently recanted, saying he could not remember the firefight and believed accepting the deal was the only way he would get out of Guantanamo.

Edney said Khadr agreed to an interview with the Star in May 2013, and signed a prison consent form for an exclusive recorded interview, which would appear in the Star, and a companion documentary to be aired on CBC Doc Zone.

The interview was designed in part to minimize concerns the warden may have about the disruption of prison operations, and Edney has offered the time normally scheduled for legal consultations to have Khadr questioned on camera.

But wardens at the federal penitentiaries in Millhaven and Edmonton, as well as the Bowden Institution have consistently refused access.

Last July, Khadr filed a grievance with Edmonton Institution warden Kelly Hartle over the refusal. Two weeks later, Hartle replied that staying quiet would be in Khadr’s best interest since a “reduction of public notoriety would be necessary as part of your rehabilitation process.”

However, Harper and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and former minister Toews have repeatedly commented on the Khadr case calling him a “known supporter of the Al Qaeda terrorist network,” and a “convicted murderer.” These comments are rare considering Khadr has a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the government and politicians usually decline to comment when cases are before the courts.

“Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are cornerstone rights in a democracy. In our view, freedom of expression includes not only Mr. Khadr’s rights to express himself, but also the public’s right to hear from Mr. Khadr,” said Sukana Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “In this particular case, the government has repeatedly expressed its views on Mr. Khadr’s case and it is only fair play in a democracy that other voices — including Mr. Khadr himself — have equal air time.”

Government sources who have worked closely on this case throughout the last decade — but who would only speak without being named for fear of reprisals — say it is well known among bureaucrats that Harper has a personal interest in Khadr and the Prime Minister’s Office monitors the case closely.

Documents obtained last year by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act provide a glimpse at the high-level political involvement in the case.

An exchange of emails shows that the public safety minister’s office rejected a 2012 interview request for Khadr by the CP — despite the fact that the warden had given the green light.

Under normal circumstances, an interview can take place if an inmate agrees, and a warden satisfies the conditions of a Corrections Canada policy known as Commissioner’s Directive 022. The directive states that the interview must be conducted “with minimal disruption” to the facility and must not pose a risk to the safety of the prison staff, inmate, visitors or victims.

But an email from Toews’ director of communications stating, “This interview is not approved,” overruled the decision by Millhaven warden Kevin Snedden to grant the CP’s telephone interview request.

A public servant familiar with the file told the CP this was highly unusual and that the case is “subjected to significant and extraordinary scrutiny from (Corrections Services Canada’s) national headquarters and overt political interference.”

Another document, according to the CP, noted that Harper’s own department “immediately flagged the initial interview application, and asked to be kept in the loop.”

Cult of Hockey: Scouts battle over whether Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse is ready for the NHL

July 21 2014 05:29PM

Top Edmonton Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse thrilled observers with his skill and violence during the team’s intersquad game at rookie camp in Jasper earlier this month, but it’s still an open question whether the 19-year-old will make the National Hockey League this fall. The matter will be decided in training camp, but it’s a subject of major disagreement right now between two scouts who closely follow Ontario Hockey League prospects.