LANGLEY, B.C. – The unidentified air cadet who survived crashing his glider onto the roof of a convenience store in the Fraser Valley city of Langley, B.C., is an experienced pilot certified by Transport Canada, says an officer with the national organization.
Emergency officials were called just before 10 a.m. Sunday to the scene of the accident located about 50 kilometres east of Vancouver, in a residential neighbourhood and near an intersection surrounded by power lines.
Upon arrival, they found the glider intact but damaged and on the roof of a convenience store.
The unidentified cadet was taken to hospital with what emergency officials described as minor injuries, and Capt. Amelie Leduc, a cadet spokeswoman, said her organization’s directorate of flight safety is investigating.
“We’re very thankful that he is alive and that he is safe,” said Leduc. “This was a normal training flight that occurs that this cadet in particular has done many, many times.”
Leduc said the cadet holds two Transport Canada licences, one of which is for a civilian pilot, and the glider is owned by the Air Cadet League of Canada.
She said the pilot took off from the nearby Langley Regional Airport but couldn’t say exactly when, although she noted a normal flight is about 15 minutes.
Leduc didn’t release the age of the cadet but said pilots must be 16 years old to be qualified by Transport Canada and her organization trains youth until they are 19.
The instructors who train the cadets, she added, are commissioned officers and are known as cadet-instructor cadres and they, too, are also licensed by Transport Canada.
Leduc called the program safe and rigorous, saying her organization conducts about 5,500 glider flights annually and similar accidents are not common.
“There will be an investigation to find out all the causes of what has happened,” she said.
Bob Scott, deputy fire chief of Langley City Fire-Rescue, said firefighters received a call of a plane crash just before 10 a.m. but while on their way to the scene learned the accident actually involved a glider.
When they arrived at the site, firefighters found the glider intact but its wings damaged and a hole punched through the building’s roof by the front-nose wheel, said Scott.
Firefighters checked the building’s integrity and then rescued the pilot, securing him in a basket and then hoisting him to the ground with the assistance of a ladder truck, he said.
He said the building’s flat roof covered an area just 18 metres by 7.5 metres in size.
“We’re not sure if it was luck or skill that got him to set the glider down on the roof,” said Scott, noting the close proximity of the intersection and power lines. “It could have been a considerably different scenario had that glider come in contact with those power lines.”
Lisa Pilling of the BC Ambulance Service said the pilot was transported to hospital in good condition, meaning his vital signs were stable and in normal limits and was conscious and comfortable, but she could give few other details because of privacy issues.
Scott said the rescue took about an hour and included four fire department vehicles, 14 firefighters, two ambulances and police.
Local resident David Bushell didn’t see the accident but said he heard the crash.
“It sounded like a load of lumber falling off a truck,” he said.
When he went to the scene to investigate, Bushell said he could see the pilot moving around and even remove a cover to the glider.
Leduc said the pilot’s parents were notified of the accident, and the glider was dismantled and taken off the roof and will now be assessed to determine whether it will fly again.
John Cottreau, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board, said the agency is gathering information on the accident but won’t attend the scene because it has already been well documented by emergency officials. He said officials plan to speak to the pilot.
Scott said the Langley Regional Airport is about one kilometre away from the accident scene but he doesn’t recall an instance when firefighters have responded to a glider crash.
“It certainly wasn’t a landing strip,” he said of the convenience store roof. “It was pretty tight.”
– by Keven Drews in Vancouver