Amidst the urgency to reach the pilot of a crashed biplane during Saturday’s Wings and Wheels air show, the fact Nanaimo Airport was still an active fly zone was not lost on emergency personnel.
Mike Hooper, airport president and CEO, said emergency response teams from the airport and the community reacted tremendously in dealing with crash and removing the pilot from the wreckage.
“Nanaimo airport services contacted the flight service station and they moved on it right away,” he said.
Dr. Bill Phipps, 71, of Campbell River, was six minutes into his eight-minute performance to open the air show when his self-built biplane crashed into a field off the tarmac.
Hooper said there are a lot of safety procedures around aviation and initial control of the crash goes to flight services.
“Flight services would give radio clearance to one vehicle at a time because they’re going into an active airport when they do that and there could be an aircraft landing. They have to get permission to cross the runway,” he said. “The airport emergency fire truck was cleared within seconds, then the Cranberry fire truck was cleared and it kept rolling through that. They all did a great job.”
Once the air space is closed, the site is initially controlled by RCMP and then transfered to the Transportation Safety Board.
The airport was closed for several hours but Hooper said impact on operations was minimal, with one scheduled passenger flight to Vancouver cancelled.
“There are smaller aircraft that can come in throughout a day, but most pilots who use the runway for recreation were already on the ground for the air show,” he said.
Brian McConnan, president of the Campbell River Flying Club and a longtime friend of Phipps, said the potential for accidents are part of being a pilot, especially performing acrobatics.
“Flying airplanes is a risky business sometimes,” said McConnan, a flight engineer who helped Phipps with his plane.
Nanaimo Flying Club hosts the air show every two years and Hooper said airport staff plan to continue working in co-operation with the club for its next event.
He had not heard from the Transportation Safety Board as of Wednesday and expects it will take some time.
“They do a very comprehensive review of these kinds of event,” he said.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman said the pilot remains in critical but stable condition in Victoria General Hospital.