Plane's propeller fell off mid-flight, leading to crash

Propeller fell off plane

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.

A propeller that fell off a small plane mid-flight on Tuesday morning, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in a farmer’s field in Saanich, has been recovered.

To say losing a propeller mid-flight is “extraordinarily unusual” is an understatement, said Colin Williamson, board president of the Victoria Flying Club. “I haven’t heard of it happening before.”

The propeller, with a piece of the engine attached to it, is a key piece of evidence as the club attempts to reassemble the four-seat Cessna 172 to try to determine what caused the engine’s “catastrophic failure” just before 9 a.m. in dry weather and clear skies.

The plane is now back in the flying club’s air hangar.

Bad weather is the most common factor in small plane crashes, and engine failure is rare, said Williamson.

Williamson said the pilot, who was taking his father on a flight for the first time, ran into engine trouble over Mount Douglas park about 10 to 15 minutes after departure from Victoria International Airport.

The Saanich Fire Department, which responded to the crash, said the pilot indicated that an oil leak had obscured the windshield.

The pilot managed to glide the single-engine Cessna 172 past homes and buildings and onto a field in Red Gate Farm, just short of Beckwith Park.

“It was brilliant airmanship to pull that off,” said Williamson of the fully qualified pilot, who has military flying experience.

The plane flipped just feet off the ground when its landing gear got caught in irrigation lines for blueberry bushes in the farmer’s field. When the fire department arrived, it found no smoke or flames.

The pilot and his passenger got out of the plane on their own. They suffered only minor injuries when trying to unbelt themselves and crawl out of the upturned plane, although the pilot was rattled by the incident, said Williamson.

The flying club is leading the investigation into what happened to the plane, working in concert with the Transportation Safety Board.

The club’s remaining 10 aircraft were temporarily grounded for safety checks and back in operation hours later, said Williamson.

ORIGINAL: 10:40 a.m.

Two people walked away with minor injuries from a morning plane crash on Tuesday in a farmer’s field in the Blenkinsop Valley.

The plane, a Cessna 172 belonging to the Victoria Flying Club, was on a pleasure flight when it experienced mechanical difficulty. The pilot attempted to make an emergency landing and the plane flipped over just before 9 a.m.

“The pilot indicated that an oil leak had obscured the windshield,” said Capt. Charlie Rivers of the Saanich Fire Department.

The plane was seen over St. Margaret’s School, an independent school for girls near Beckwith Park, before its descent.

The plane crashed and overturned at Red Gate Farm, just short of Beckwith Park, which has a playground, children’s water park and playing fields.

When the fire department arrived, it found no smoke or flames. The two occupants had extricated themselves from the damaged single-engine high wing aircraft.

Brent Hoeppner, owner of Red Gate Farm, said the pilot did a great job in avoiding the nearby school and homes. 

The plane’s undercarriage came in contact with irrigation cables strung out for the blueberry plants in the field, ripping out four rows.

The cables served to slow the plane’s landing, but also contributed to flipping it over, seriously damaging the engine in the process.

“Considering that two people walked away from that crash, the rest is all pretty minor stuff,” said Hoeppner.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said it was called to the scene at 8:55 a.m., and two patients were treated for minor injuries and transported to hospital.

Murray Palmer of the Victoria Flying Club, who was at the scene checking out the crash site, said the four-seat Cessna training airplane departed from Victoria International Airport in North Saanich, where the flying club is based.

Greg Matte, general manager of the Victoria Flying Club, said the plane was rented to a fully qualified pilot who is a member of the club.

The club is recovering the plane to determine the cause of the mishap. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has been informed of the crash.

Matte said that out of an abundance of caution, the club’s remaining fleet of 10 aircraft has been grounded.

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