BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Emergency crews work to stabilize a passenger from a vintage biplane that crashed on takeoff at the Brandon Municipal Airport over the noon hour on Tuesday.
Two passengers are being treated for minor injuries after a privately owned vintage war plane crashed shortly after takeoff at the Brandon Municipal Airport.
Passengers wait outside the Brandon Municipal Airport for their WestJet Encore flight to Calgary that was rerouted to Winnipeg airport after a small plane caused Brandon to shut down its runway. (LINDSEY ENNS/BRANDON SUN)
City officials confirmed a small biplane, otherwise known as a Boeing Stearman, crashed shortly after takeoff at McGill Airfield early Tuesday afternoon.
The crash shut down the airport’s runway, re-routing an incoming WestJet Encore flight from Calgary bound for Brandon to Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. The closure also delayed passengers bound for Calgary on the incoming flight for nearly three hours.
The plane went down at around 12:30 p.m. and the incoming flight from Calgary was supposed to land at 12:50 p.m.
"They were in the process of coming in, I think they did a holding pattern around Brandon for a little bit … then got sent out to Winnipeg," said Timothy Sanderson, Brandon’s director of transportation services.
Although he didn’t see the incident first-hand, staff were able to react quickly after the airport’s crash alarm went off, he said.
"Our truck was dispatched immediately, was out on the runway probably within 90 seconds … we got both of them off the plane," he said. "It was attempting takeoff and it experienced a malfunction and the plane crashed."
"First and foremost, our thoughts are with the injured pilot and passenger involved," WestJet spokesperson Brie Ogle said via email on Tuesday.
"From an operational standpoint, our aircraft was diverted to the Winnipeg International Airport about 20 minutes prior to landing in (Brandon) due to an incident with a smaller, local aircraft."
While waiting to board her flight to Calgary, Jean Kirby said she and a few others saw the small yellow plane make its crash landing.
"The plane was taking off and it just got almost to the end of the runway and it went up … I thought it went up too steep and then all of a sudden the nose came right down," Kirby said sitting outside of the Brandon airport.
"The engine actually broke off," regional director of the Transportation Safety Board, Peter Hildebrand said. "Shortly after takeoff, maybe 50 feet in the air or so, there was a malfunction of the engine and a propeller and the airplane came down and landed hard on the runway."
He added that they’ve "put a hold on the airplane" and are waiting to speak with its owners.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada allowed airport staff to begin clearing the runway, and by around 2:30 p.m., regularly scheduled flights resumed. City officials would not release the names of the pilots and said the safety board will now be taking over the investigation.
Carl Martin, who handles media relations for Vintage Wings of Canada, the organization that operates the Stearman, said via email that the plane was in Brandon flying from air shows in Alberta to Quebec.
"I can tell you the pilots are being treated in hospital for minor injuries. The hospital will keep them under observation tonight and re-assess their condition in the morning. Luckily, they’re expected to make a full recovery," Martin said via email. "Although the plane is banged up now, it could still be fixed in the future."
He added that there are "a lot" of these types of planes still flying today and that this particular Boeing Stearman trained allied air crews in the spring and summer of 1942 in Bowden, Alta., as part of the massive British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The incident occurred a week to the day after nearly 1,000 Brandonites gathered at the local airport to celebrate WestJet’s inaugural flight.
Flights, using smaller 78-seat turboprops, are scheduled to leave Calgary every day at 9:50 a.m. MT for the two-hour flight to Brandon, which will arrive at 12:50 p.m. The return flight from Brandon to Calgary will take off at 1:20 p.m. and arrive in Calgary at 2:35 p.m. MT.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 11, 2013