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This article was published 1/7/2016 (2147 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Conditions seemed perfect for a Canada Day morning flight – but now investigators are trying to find out why a small plane fell out of the sky and crashed just outside Winnipeg, killing two people and leaving the local flying community reeling.
A Piper Cherokee 140, which departed Friday from tiny Lyncrest Airport in the RM of Springfield, crashed about 9:30 a.m. in a grassy field near the floodway, south of Hwy. 15 and not far from Deacon’s Corner.
The plane belongs to the Winnipeg-area chapter of the Recreational Aircraft Association (RRA).
Chapter president Jim Oke, speaking to reporters from Lyncrest on Friday afternoon, would not identify the two victims.
"We're a very close-knit community here at Lyncrest where we know each other and fly for fun and have a good time generally," said Oke. "We're very sad, of course, that two members have lost their lives very tragically on this holiday day.
He said it was unlikely the cause was weather-related, given the good flying conditions on the day.
"One of the factors in an aircraft mishap is generally weather, and if the weather is a bright, sunny calm day, it’s generally not a factor," Oke said. "Beyond that, it would be simply speculation."
RCMP and rescue personnel from the RM of Springfield Fire Department and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, raced to the scene after several 911 calls were placed by people who saw smoke billowing from the site. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released a statement late in the morning saying it was sending investigators to the site.
Springfield fire chief Jeff Hudson told the Free Press the crash site was initially difficult to find.
"The RCMP found it first and the Winnipeg Fire (Paramedic Service) was also there. They were released when we got there," he said. "It was a small downed plane, with a small fire."
Hudson said confirmed crashes are a rarity.
"We get several reports of possible plane crashes. All are taken very seriously, but they don’t turn out like this," he said.
The aircraft was registered to the RAA and was flown by people with their private or commercial pilots licence to train and build up hours in the air.
While many members of the RAA do construct their own aircrafts, Oke said the plane was a "fairly old" factory-built aircraft, one of two belonging to the organization.
"(The plane was) probably 20 years old," he said. "It had flown for many thousands of hours uneventfully. What caused this particular event, we’re not sure."
Oke said he doesn't expect to know more about the cause of the incident until the TSB investigation is complete, which could take three to six months,
The Lyncrest Airport is also home to the Springfield Flying Club. Harry Wiebe has been a club member for 29 years and, while he isn't associated with the RAA, he said the crash is a blow to all who are regulars at the airport.
"When it happens here, it’s always close to home," Wiebe said, while noting the plane was used for "noble" purposes, like helping pilots gain valuable flying experience.
The blue Cherokee had been a fixture at the airport for some time.
"I know the airplane, I've seen it. But it's a plane that various people could be flying," Steven Sadler, president of the Lyncrest Airport, located on Murdock Road.
Sadler said it there hasn’t been a serious crash of a plane that flew out of Lyncrest since the 1980s.
"Fatalities in small aircraft are actually quite uncommon because they fly at slower speeds than a jet," he said. "It's a club, and we all know each other, for sure."
In 2012, Winnipeggers Tony Butt, 48, and Gilbert Bourrier, 64, died after their red Acrosport II suddenly rolled and plunged nose-first into a lagoon at the edge of the Manitou airstrip after taking off from the Lyncrest Airport.