Practice turns into nightmare

NELLY ELAYOUBI AND MEGAN GILLIS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

A former Canadian Football League player is dead after the plane he was piloting crashed at the Carp Airport yesterday as his wife watched in horror.

Scott Manning of Toronto was to perform with his BD5-J micro jet, known as the "world's smallest jet," at this weekend's Air Show Ottawa.

The plane took a dive along the runway during a routine practice run at around 12:15 p.m.

Bystanders watched as the textbook-perfect practice turned into twisted wreckage and billowing smoke.

"Disbelief -- they're doing their training run, then all of a sudden this happens," said show volunteer Henry Krusch. "You don't believe that it's really happening. He was doing some kind of manoeuvre (then a) nosedive into the ground.

"It happened that fast.

"His wife saw it. All I heard was screaming and crying."

FAMILY GRIEVES

Manning's wife, Nancy, gathered with family members at a building on the airport grounds to grieve privately. They hugged and cried -- nearly screaming with grief -- before disappearing inside.

They were too distraught to talk to reporters, said air show spokeswoman Whitney Zelmer.

"They did want you to say how much Scott loved aviation," she said. "This was his life. He built his jet -- it took him 6,000 man hours. His heart and soul was in it."

Ottawa police blocked off the airport throughout the afternoon and air traffic was stopped.

Show organizers and police wouldn't speculate on a cause, saying the crash is under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board.

Two investigators from the board were on the scene by late afternoon, when Manning's body was removed from the wreckage. The investigators took the jet to their lab at the Ottawa Airport.

Air show organizer Barry Camm was watching Manning's practice run from the control tower.

"We were just commenting on how well it was going when it just spiralled at the end of the runway," he said.

NOTHING ON RADIO

"He was just doing a pass -- lowering and raising his landing gear," Camm said. "It's such a small jet it gives something for people to look at.

"There were no communications on the radio."

Paramedics and firefighters were at the jet within seconds, Camm said. Air shows are required to have emergency services, including police, on hand in case of an emergency.

"All the safety precautions were in place," Camm said. "Everyone reacted the way they were supposed to.

"It can happen at anytime. Unfortunately, it happened here."

Pilots undergo medical checks and their craft are tightly regulated.

Spectators were never at risk, Camm said.

The plane crashed well away from spectators, well within the "airbox" -- the zone kept free of spectators or vehicles for safety reasons.

Would-be spectators said the pilot's death puts a dark shadow on the air show, which starts today.

"It does make it a little sad and poignant, to know that someone lost their life doing practice to perform during the air show," said Paul Penna, an aviation enthusiast.

RECENT PLANE CRASHES

- November 2000: Dick and Bill Crabbe died instantly when their ultralight Zenith Zodiac kit plane crashed on a Gatineau street.

- Aug. 11, 2003: Peter Caverly, 50, died after crashing his ultralight near Kemptville. His female passenger survived.

- Aug. 17, 2003: An unidentified man died after his glider collided with another plane near L'Original. One pilot parachuted to safety, but the other rode his glider to the ground, where he died on impact.

- Sept. 18, 2003: Glen Seguin, 57, died instantly when he crashed his ultralight aircraft into a hydro line near North Gower, narrowly missing a home. He had been flying for a year.

- June 14, 2004: Experienced pilot Alain Bourbonnais, 42, drowned when he crashed his small plane into the Ottawa River between Cumberland and Masson. The coroner and Transportation Safety Board was unable to determine a cause.

- July 18, 2005: Douglas Irving died after his float plane crashed on Constance Lake. The Transportation Safety Board concluded pilot error was partly to blame -- he wasn't wearing his glasses.

nelly.elayoubi@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos