A local flying club will pay tribute to one of its members who was among those killed in a plane crash earlier this week.
It’s believed that three people are dead after a Piper PA-60-602P Aerostar crashed into a wooded area on Gabriola Island in the evening hours of Dec. 10.
The twin-engine private plane was in the process of conducting an instrument approach into Nanaimo Airport when it crashed on Gabriola, according to the Transportation Safety Board.
B.C. Coroners Service has not released the identity of the victims, but the TSB has confirmed that the plane involved in the crash was arriving from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, Calif.
According to various media reports, three people were onboard the plane including Alex Bahlsen, a pilot and former TSB employee.
Bahlsen was also a member of the Nanaimo Flying Club. On Wednesday, the club posted a statement on Facebook paying tribute to Bahlsen’s death and describing him as a “amazing pilot, mentor and friend” with unwavering professionalism.
Benjamin Werbski, vice-president of the Nanaimo Flying Club, told the News Bulletin the plane that crashed was a Piper Aerostar owned by Bahlsen and was registered as C-FQYW. He said Bahlsen was a great person and leader, was highly respected, and will be remembered by the flying club as “really positive and a nice guy.”
“Everybody knew his plane,” Werbski said.
Bahlsen was a highly experienced pilot who owned a place in Mill Bay but often split his time between Alberta, British Columbia and Mexico, according to Werbski. He said he doesn’t know what happened to Bahlsen or his plane on the night of the crash.
“For a pilot like that, who has that experience with multiple airplanes and helicopters, something tragically must have gone wrong…” Werbski said. “He was so close to Nanaimo Airport, I just don’t understand why he was circling over Gabriola.”
Werbski said Bahlsen’s death has hit the club hard.
“It’s very sad when something like this happens,” he said. “It affects the entire community and the general aviation community.”
While Bahlsen’s death has impacted the flying club, Werbski said pilots of all ages are well aware of the risks associated with flying.
“Unfortunately, these things happen and they happen more frequently than you want to see…” he said. “It’s a sad thing to have occurred but once the TSB gets down to the root of the problem, we all learn from it. You have to.”
Werbski said the Nanaimo Flying Club will do something in Bahlsen’s honour in the near future.
The TSB has not confirmed whether Bahlsen was an employee. Andy Watson, communications manager with the B.C. Coroners Service, told the News Bulletin in an e-mailed statement that it is “very unlikely” names of the crash victims will ever be released due to privacy reasons.
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