Pilot recovering after emergency landing

Engine died moments after take-off at Pitt Meadows airport

Small aircraft made emergency landing at Pitt Meadows airport Tuesday.

Small aircraft made emergency landing at Pitt Meadows airport Tuesday.

The Transportation Safety Board has found that mechanical problems caused Tuesday’s emergency landing of a Cessna 152 at Pitt Meadows Regional Airport and won’t pursue the incident any further.

Tuesday, just before 3 p.m., the 23-year-old pilot took off southbound on Runway 18, headed to the Langley airport, when the engine developed fuel problems.

The pilot pulled a 180-degree turn, trying to make it back to the runway, which goes north-south, but only made it to the taxiway, metres from the Fraser River.

The plane crashed on landing and bystanders jumped to rescue the pilot, who remains in hospital.

Jeep Mandair, of Pacific Aviation Academy at the airport, said the plane belongs to his company and the pilot was a former student trying to gain flying time in order to get his commercial licence.

The plane, though, was rented as a private category plane to licenced pilots and was not used for providing lessons.

“It started to choke and he immediately decided to turn left and make a forced landing. He barely made the pavement,” Mandair said.

“If he wasn’t a good pilot, he probably would have gone into the river.”

Mandair talked to safety board investigators and said while the plane was warmed up for several minutes and water had been drained and the engine was running smoothly, some water could have remained at the bottom of the carburetor.

“It choked the airplane. It happens, by the way, to a lot of pilots, even in normal conditions.”

Often, that water can be burned off in normal operation of the plane, but this time it happened at the wrong time. If the pilot had just a few more seconds before the engine conked out, he likely would have made it back to the runway or least safely landed on the taxiway. But by that time, the airspeed had dropped too much.

“He barely just passed over the bench where people sit and watch the river.”

Once he got over the taxi way, the plane came down hard, smashing the front end and causing a fuel leak. However, there was no fire.

“The plane is a write off,” Mandair said.

He added the pilot, who was trained at the airport, should be out of hospital in a week.

Ridge Meadows RCMP say the man was from Langley and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg and broken jaw.