The man who died in the plane crash Monday night in Abbotsford was immersed in the flying world.
Marty Lehner was a member of the Abbotsford Flying Club (AFC), was on the board of directors for the Abbotsford Airshow, and was the B.C. dealer for Pipistrel Aircraft based in Slovenia.
AFC vice-president Adrian Renkers said club members were devastated to learn about the death of Lehner, who was a valued addition to the close-knit group.
“He was very jovial, outgoing and a bubbly kind of person,” Renkers said.
He said Lehner regularly turned out for the AFC’s TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) social gatherings at its clubhouse at the Abbotsford Airport, as well as to breakfast on Sunday mornings, followed by a group flight.
Renkers described Lehner as a “very competent pilot” who was working on obtaining his instrument rating, which requires additional training beyond what is required for a private pilot certificate.
Renkers said Lehner owned four planes – a Cessna 150, a Cessna 180, a Piper Cub and a Pipistrel Virus SW 100.
Lehner, owner of a sprinkler installation company, was flying the Virus – described as a light two-seater aircraft – on Monday afternoon, departing from Abbotsford Airport en route to Pitt Meadows, where he was planning to view another plane for possible purchase, according to Renkers.
Lehner lost contact with the control tower, and an emergency beacon began sending a signal from northwest Abbotsford at about 4:30 p.m.
The aircraft was located in a densely wooded area near a mushroom farm at about 9 p.m., and it was determined that the Lehner had likely clipped some power lines prior to crashing.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating the incident.
TSB spokesman Bill Yearwood said Lehner was given clearance to fly in Monday’s inclement weather, but soon after taking off, he informed the control tower that he was turning back due to the bad conditions.