Sealand Aviation Blog

Life Jackets and Tracking Systems

It’s never a good thing when a plane goes in, but, in the case of C-FJZE, it wasn’t all bad news. Joel at Air Cab in Coal Harbour (the one near Port Hardy), pioneered a flight tracking system and has been negotiating with Transport Canada to get inflatable personal flotation devices allowed and approved on float planes.

A couple of weeks ago, one of his Beavers got caught in an unexpected downdraft at Goose Bay, Rivers Inlet. Larry Pynn at the Vancouver Sun tells the story:

Air Cab is a charter company flying the B.C. coast from the Alaska border south to Tofino. A Transport Canada inspection in 2009 found the company’s operations to be satisfactory. The fleet consists of two Cessna 185 and three Beaver float planes.

Correction: make that two Beavers -at least, for the time being.

As fate would have it, on the morning of May 20, one of Eilertsen’s Beavers crash-landed near Egg Island in Rivers Inlet. The pilot was Ryan MacDonald, the same one who told The Sun only weeks earlier how he hoped that all of Eilertsen’s safety measures would never be needed. Having them all work proved to be the next best thing.

As Eilertsen takes up the story, MacDonald ran into an extreme downward gust of wind — inconsistent with calm conditions reported in the vicinity — just as he was about to land. The plane’s right wing hit the water and the aircraft cart-wheeled across the surface.

MacDonald wore a shoulder harness and escaped through the co-pilot’s door and got himself up onto the floats without injury.

“Once he got out, he realized he hadn’t taken time to grab one of the life jackets,” Eilertsen said. “And then he said, ‘I got this silly-ass smile across my face and remembered I was wearing a Mustang vest.’”

MacDonald hit the emergency switch on the Skytrax system before exiting the plane and alerted the Air Cab office in Coal Harbour at 8:25 a.m.

Eilertsen fielded a call on his cellphone in Campbell River, where he was having breakfast at a White Spot restaurant, at 8:27 a.m.

And by 8:30 a.m. he’d been alerted that a private sport fishing camp at the old Goose Bay Cannery had spotted the pilot on the floats — okay — and was sending a boat to fetch him.

“All the safety things I had put in place worked very well,” he concluded. “I’m quite pleased.”

Except, of course, for the fact that the Beaver sank in 50 metres of water and is being recovered. Damage is estimated at $250,000.

“I am upset to lose an airplane,” he confirmed.

lpynn [at] vancouversun [dot] com

You can read the whole story at:

Greg and Peter helped bring it home... Now Bob and his crew are starting on the repairs.

⇦ Back