An Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse on July 16. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released a report July 29 on the crash that killed 24-year-old Shawn Kitchen, an Alkan Air pilot from Whitehorse, and 33-year-old Julia Lane, a Vancouver geologist and the aircraft’s lone passenger, on Aug. 6, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Pilot decisions, poor weather contributed to 2019 Alkan Air crash, TSB finds

Decisions made by an Alkan Air pilot while flying in poor weather were among the main contributors to a fatal crash near Mayo last year, an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has found.

The TSB released its report July 29 on the crash that killed 24-year-old Shawn Kitchen, an Alkan Air pilot from Whitehorse, and 33-year-old Julia Lane, a Vancouver geologist and the aircraft’s lone passenger, on Aug. 6, 2019.

According to the report, the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan being piloted by Kitchen had departed the Rau Strip, located within the Rackla Gold Project in central Yukon, just after 11 a.m. that day en route to Mayo.

It was Kitchen’s fourth flight of the day, the report says, and he had previously flown from Mayo to Rackla Strip, back to Mayo, and then to the Rau Strip.

Shortly after taking off, the flight encountered low cloud levels, with the plane flying, at some points as low as 100 to 200 feet above the terrain.

However, GPS data showed that the plane did not slow down to account for the reduced visibility, and, at one point, turned into a box canyon.

“The pilot turned into the box canyon likely believing that it was the continuation of Granite Creek as it turned to the south, toward the west end of Mayo Lake,” the report says, referring to a route Kitchen would have flown earlier that day.

“The GPS did not record a change of altitude that would suggest the pilot was trying to perform a best angle of climb manoeuvre … to clear the ridge of the box canyon. Instead, there was a slight increase in altitude that followed the initial gradual elevation terrain in the box canyon.”

The elevation of the canyon floor abruptly increased within less than one nautical mile, the report says, “and the low visibility prevented the pilot from detecting this and taking sufficient actions to prevent collision with terrain.”

The crash would not have been survivable due to the force of the impact.

‘The pilot’s decision-making would have been affected by his familiarity with the route and, consequently, he likely did not consider an alternate route to avoid the poor weather conditions,” the TSB said in a press release.

The report noted that Alkan Air has taken several actions to address safety since the crash, including updating its training program for the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan to include low-level route training and rotating out the flight crew assigned to the Mayo base more frequently.

In a press release following the publication of the report, Alkan Air president Wendy Tayler “appreciate(s) the effort of the Transportation Safety Board in preparing this report as we continually work with the agency as a company and as an industry to ensure the health and safety of our employees and passengers.”

“The entire Alkan Air team extends our sincere condolences to Shawn’s and Julia’s family, friends and colleagues … Alkan Air thanks Yukoners for the support they continue to demonstrate and for their understanding during this time,” she said.

Lane’s spouse filed a lawsuit against Alkan Air earlier this month, alleging that negligence on the part of the pilot and by extension, Alkan Air, was responsible for the crash; the press release said that, given the legal action, it wouldn’t be “appropriate for the company to comment on the accident, the TSB report or any related issues.”

Contact Jackie Hong at

Transportation Safety Board

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read