BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Emergency personnel work to stabilize a passenger from a Second World War-era biplane that crashed at the Brandon Municipal Airport on Tuesday. The injured pilot and co-pilot were taken to hospital.
A plane crash that sent two men to hospital was caused when one of the Second World War-era biplane’s propeller blades broke off.
The Transportation Safety Board reports that the loss of the propeller blade caused the plane to shake and its engine fell out in mid-flight.
Archie Londry of Brandon, a former Second World War flying instructor and founding member of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, was surprised to hear a description of the crash. Vintage aircraft are typically well-maintained by the groups that own them, he said.
"These vintage aircraft, they are certainly as airworthy as anything else as far as they have to have a certificate of airworthiness and everything kept up to date on them," said Londry, who stopped by the museum at the Brandon airport on Wednesday morning to take a look at the damaged 1942 Boeing Stearman as it rested on a flatbed trailer.
A transparent plastic sheet covered the nose of the Stearman, but a hole where the engine and propeller should have been could clearly be seen.
The lower set of the biplane’s wings were slightly crumpled near the fuselage.
The plane crashed around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Brandon Municipal Airport and the injured pilot and co-pilot were taken to hospital.
The crash shut down the runway, forcing an incoming WestJet Encore flight from Calgary to be diverted to Winnipeg, and it finally reached its destination around 4 p.m. Passengers waiting to board that aircraft for the return flight to Calgary were delayed for more than three hours.
By Wednesday morning, the Transportation Safety Board had issued a summary of the crash and indicated that its investigation is largely complete. According to its findings, the biplane was travelling from Regina to St. Andrews when it stopped in Brandon to refuel.
During takeoff — the board previously estimated about 50 feet in the air — one of the propeller blades "failed at the blade root and departed the aircraft."
That caused a severe vibration that broke the engine from its mounts and it fell off in flight. The plane pitched up, became uncontrollable and then dove, nose first, into the runway.
At the museum Wednesday morning, a woman who identified herself as the pilot’s wife declined to comment at length. However, she indicated that her husband and the second man who was in the aircraft are doing fine.
Carl Martin, who handles media relations for Vintage Wings of Canada, the organization that operates the Stearman, reported that both men remain in hospital. One, however, was expected to be released today.
Both men — a 56-year-old Calgarian and a 63-year-old Winnipeg resident — have sore backs. Martin said one of the men has broken ankles, but those were the most severe injuries and both are expected to fully recover.
Martin said both men are experienced pilots, having logged thousands of hours in the air. They are also Vintage Wing’s two most experienced pilots when it comes to flying the Stearman.
The plane itself is salvageable, Martin added, and work to repair it will begin as soon as the TSB’s investigation is complete.
Meanwhile, the crash and the need to divert passengers has done nothing to sour WestJet’s feelings toward the Wheat City and its airport.
The crash happened one week after WestJet landed in Brandon for the first time as part of regular air service between this city and Calgary.
The Brandon airport performed as the company expected and resumed safe operations in a reasonable time, a company spokesperson said. Winnipeg is a good option when diversions are needed.
"I can assure you there has been no negative impact in terms of how we see our newest WestJet Encore destination as we continue to enjoy enthusiastic support from the greater community," Brie Ogle said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 12, 2013