From the Air Force to the TSB – A meaningful transition
16 June 2016
Posted by Jean-Pierre Regnier
I enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) at the age of 20, and I have just recently retired to join the ranks of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Air Branch as a Senior Investigator. Having been in the military for the majority of my adult life, I was looking to transition to a ‘civilian’ life and work environment after retirement. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to join the TSB, occupying a civilian profession that provides the same type of stimulation and motivation, I jumped on it right away! This situation is quite rare and I consider myself very lucky.
Following childhood dreams of becoming a pilot, I spent 27 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). This provided me with very rewarding experiences from operational and instructional flying on the Sea King or Jet Ranger helicopters, to working as an aircraft accident investigator within the Directorate of Flight Safety; basically the RCAF’s equivalent to the TSB’s Air Branch. This was a highlight of my military career.
Other than the TSB, only the Department of National Defense and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may investigate for the purpose of making findings as to the causes and contributing factors of an accident. The TSB’s mandate of advancing transportation safety is similar to the RCAF’s Flight Safety program objective, which is to prevent the accidental loss of aviation resources and includes promoting safe behavior, flight safety education, accident investigation and analysis. The major difference here at the TSB is obviously the focus on the civilian transportation industry and the scope and number of occurrences that the TSB must deal with! However, the similarities have allowed me to hit the ground running, so to speak.
While I was with the CAF, I was called on to investigate occurrences involving military transport aircraft, helicopters, and fighter jets. Some were in Canada of course, but some were operating as far Florida, the United Kingdom, Italy, Libya and Afghanistan. One of those occurrences was a Griffon helicopter accident which occurred in Afghanistan on 06 July 2009. While departing from a Forward Operating Base, a very large dustball developed. The aircraft drifted forward and to the right, struck a barrier, rotated left, rolled onto its right side and caught fire. One pilot was unharmed, one sustained minor injuries and one passenger suffered serious injuries. The remaining three personnel tragically perished in the crash. The aircraft was destroyed.Footnote 1 After having joined DFS that year, I was later designated investigator-in-charge (IIC), for the report production phase, and the completion of the investigation.
In July 2013, I deployed as IIC to Shearwater, Nova Scotia, with a team to investigate an occurrence involving a Sea King helicopter. The aircraft had ground taxied to a complete stop but then pitched forward rapidly, rotated forward and pivoted on the extended main landing gear oleos before lifting off the ground. The aircraft came to rest on its left side, after which the crew conducted an emergency shutdown and egressed through the personnel door. There were no injuries or post-accident fire though flying debris damaged the surrounding hangars.Footnote 2
While I’ve participated in several military aircraft accident investigations, I’ve just recently deployed to an accident site with the TSB. On 29 March 2016, a Mitsubishi MU-2B-60 aircraft, with one pilot and 6 passengers on board, departed controlled flight while on final approach to Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec. In the final approach phase, the aircraft deviated to the south of the approach path and descended into the ground fatally injuring all 7 people on board. The aircraft was destroyed.
For this tragic occurrence, I am currently a member of the operations team assisting the IIC, helping him investigate issues such as aircraft operations, flight performance and pilot training, supporting our Communications Branch and, conducting liaison duties with the families and loved ones.
But like many in the TSB, our time must be shared with other duties or investigations. In my case, I am also a member of the Air Branch standards and quality assurance team, which means I work on our investigations manual and also review and revise investigation reports, before they are presented to the Director and Board members.
Throughout my Air Force career, I’ve worked with outstanding colleagues who were always ready, willing and able to do the job. From the people I’ve met here so far, I can tell that from their experience, dedication and professionalism, the same applies to my TSB colleagues.
Looking back at my military career, I can say that joining the TSB after I retired from the Air Force is what made the most sense for me. Advancing transportation safety has always been at the very heart of what I do, whether it is as a member of the Canadian Air Force, or as a Senior TSB Investigator.
Jean-Pierre (Jeep) Régnier comes to the TSB with over 27 years of military aviation experience from the Royal Canadian Air Force as an Officer, helicopter pilot and accident investigator. With over 5 years as a military aircraft accident investigator within the Directorate of Flight Safety, and having earned a Master’s degree in Safety and Accident Investigation from Cranfield University in the UK, he joins the TSB as a Senior Investigator Air - Standards and Quality Assurance section.
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