Pilot injured after ulralight plane crashes near Indus 0
Mike Drew/QMI Agency RCMP officers at the scene of an ultralight plane crash in a canola field south of the Indus ultralight airstrip on August 16, 2012. One person was injured and taken to hospital by STARS air ambulance.
Apparent engine failure led to an ultralight crash near Indus that left a Calgary pilot severely injured Thursday.
The man, believed to be in his 50s, had taken off from a grass runway at an Indus-area airstrip when his ultralight began faltering after it reached an altitude of about 150 metres.
Witness Wayne Winters knew quickly after takeoff the aircraft and its pilot were in trouble.
"It seemed to lack power and descended and went down behind buildings and trees," said Winters, manager of the Indus/Winters Aire Park about 10 km southeast of Calgary.
Winters and a colleague raced to where the ultralight had crashed into a canola field two kilometres south of the airport and about 100 metres from an acreage home.
They righted the aircraft, pulling it off its pilot who was still belted in, Winters said.
The men then called for help and the man, who hasn't yet been named, was transported to Foothills Hospital by STARS Air Ambulance in critical condition.
"He wasn't conscious but he was breathing strongly," Winters said.
Afterwards, the light-blue wings of the ultralight could be seen suspended in a carpet of green canola.
From what he saw, there's little doubt an engine malfunction led to the crash, which was made far worse by the metre-tall field of canola.
The crop, he said, is dense and tightly interwoven, causing the wheeled aircraft to flip over on its pilot upon impact, Winters said.
"It just grabbed it and flipped it over -- another field would have been a cushion. it would have glided right in," he said. "But if the engine wouldn't have quit, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"He ran out of altitude, speed and ideas at the same time."
The ultralight's engine, he said, is an older model that's no longer manufactured, adding that flying conditions were ideal at the time.
Winters said the pilot had been flying ultralights for one to two years and had embarked Thursday on a quick local flight meant to last no longer than 30 minutes.
"It was just a fun flight around the patch," he said, adding the craft are extremely safe, even though the one that crashed offered virtually no protection for the pilot.
Officials with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are investigating.
Unlike in the U.S., ultralight pilots in Canada require registration and a permit, the latter granted after five hours of duo flight and two hours of solo air time, Winters said.