The area’s aviation community continues to mourn the loss of two of its own after a small aircraft crashed near the Springbank Airport last week killing a flying school instructor and his student.
“The airport community is suffering this loss,” said Larry Stock, Springbank Airport’s general manager. “When accidents take place such as the one last week, they become losses that our entire airport community feels. The loss of life equates to the loss of friends and colleagues, and we grieve for their families and friends.”
Emergency Medical Services spokesman Stuart Brideaux said calls began coming in about 10 a.m. last Thursday about a light aircraft that had crashed just south of Highway 1 west of Calaway Park.
Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Report says the Piper PA-34-200T, owned and operated by Springbank Air Training College, took off from Runway 17 about the same time and crashed shortly afterward in a field just over one kilometre from of the airport.
Cochrane resident Hugh Dixon was driving into work when he said he noticed a plane flying quite low.
“It was flying level over the highway fairly low and … the nose wasn’t tilted up in a take-off position,” Dixon recalled. “I could tell that the plane was ever so slightly losing altitude, so by the time it got down to about 100 feet and it was over the farmer’s field, the nose pitched down and it went straight down into the ground.
“I knew the plane was in trouble, just simply because it was losing altitude, but I thought it was just going to land in the field … I was quite shocked when I saw the nose pitch down. I honestly thought they were going to get out of it.”
Dixon said he saw a burst of flame that lasted for a few seconds, followed by plumes of thick smoke. After seeing the crash, he pulled over on the shoulder of the highway to call 911.
“I was on the side of the road for a few minutes, trying to call authorities and just sort of getting over the shock of seeing this event,” Dixon said. “I saw some of the emergency vehicles coming over from the Springbank Airport … they were on their way within a minute or two.”
Area resident Anita Robinson was jogging with her miniature black Labrador, Bailey, when she said the dog unexpectedly stopped and alerted her to the possibility something was wrong.
“I was running my dog and all of a sudden, my dog stopped … and I looked up and all I saw was this big black smoke,” she said. “Then I saw the fire under it.”
Emergency personnel arrived on scene shortly afterward to discover the full scope of the situation.
“On EMS and fire arrival, we were eventually able to determine there were two adults deceased,” said Brideaux.
Media identified Amir Ehsan Hosseini — a former University of Alberta student who had been taking flying lessons for the last couple of years — earlier this week as one of the crash victims.
The other victim has not yet been named.
The Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the incident, though answers aren’t expected for at least several weeks or months.
Stock said he hopes to learn from the board’s findings when they do conclude their probe, and until then, those who call the airport home will continue to move forward as best they can.
“We support each other by reaching out to each other, and by carrying on with our professional duties mindfully.”