News

Aviation tragedy

March 2, 2017 — 2:20 p.m.

Today, students have been informed of a decision by the University to voluntarily ground the school’s two remaining Tecnam P2006T aircraft. This decision is not based on any instruction from Transport Canada or the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

“We have made the decision to voluntarily ground our planes: this is our decision alone,” said Leon Cygman, chair of Mount Royal University’s Aviation program. “We are acting with caution until all the reviews are complete, including our own internal review and the findings of the TSB investigation.”

Students will continue to learn on the single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft, of which there are five in the fleet. One or two twin-engine planes will be leased as part of the next phase of operations. In the meantime, Mount Royal is exploring options for students to get required twin-engine training through other reputable flying schools.

“Our curriculum is quite robust,” said Cygman. “But we feel, under the circumstances, we need to explore all options in our students’ best interest.”

Mount Royal is always hiring instructors, but given the tragedy, job advertisements will be posted in the coming days to help the program return to a full complement of instructors.

The annual wings ceremony is still planned for April 29, in which students celebrate the achievements of the last year.

Mount Royal University continues to mourn the loss of two respected pilot instructors. Jeff Bird, 35, and Reyn Johnson, 64, died in a tragic plane accident Feb. 13, 2017. Instructors resumed flights last week. Students, of which there are 66 registered, returned to the cockpit this week.

Mount Royal employs a comprehensive safety management system, which is overseen by a dedicated safety officer. The University’s flying school is also accredited by the world-leading Aviation Accreditation Board International.

For further information, please contact:

Bryan Weismiller, Communications Officer Mount Royal University
Cell: 403.978.1365
Media cell: 403.463.6930
mediarelations@mtroyal.ca

 

– Statement from the family of Reyn Johnson

– Mourning Jeff Bird and Reyn Johnson

– Aviation tragedy questions and answers

 

Feb. 27, 2017 — 9:55 a.m.

As Mount Royal University grieves the loss of two highly respected pilot instructors, research on the history of our 47-year-old Aviation program has identified three other deaths — all from decades ago.

When the tragedy first occurred on Feb. 13, it was believed to be the first fatalities resulting from an aircraft accident in the history of Mount Royal’s flight training program. That information was provided to media in good faith and under extremely difficult circumstances.

On Feb. 15, Mount Royal informed reporters that aviator Al Milne died in a plane crash in 1973 at or near the Springbank airport, according to a file in the institution’s archives. No further information is available on that event.

The two other incidents are detailed below:

  • In 1974, Calgary pilot, instructor and former Royal Canadian Air Force flight lieutenant Victor Jewitt died in a single-engine Grumman American Yankee aircraft. Jewitt, 51, was with a junior instructor who survived the crash, according to a media report at the time. Jewitt was reported to be the Chief Instructor for the North American Air Training College. At the time, the North American Air Training College was the service provider for the flight training portion of Mount Royal’s Aviation program.
  • In 1989, a crewman from another flight operator passed away tragically in a mid-air collision with a plane piloted by a Mount Royal instructor and aviation student. This information was provided to Mount Royal independently and then from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Media accounts of the day identify the deceased pilot as Rodger Millie, 38, of Calgary.

The TSB, which has existed since 1990, provided us with the one and only file it was able to find related to an aviation fatality involving Mount Royal. The agency also provided a list of 14 total occurrence numbers involving the University’s Aviation program. The exact seriousness of each incident is unclear — pending the results of a formal access to information request initiated by Mount Royal.

We seek to be honest and upfront when information from several decades ago is provided. Other cases may come to light in the future when records from past decades are examined, although we have no information to that effect today.

Mount Royal employs a comprehensive safety management system, which is overseen by a safety officer. The University is also accredited by the world-leading Aviation Accreditation Board International.

We are continuing to cooperate with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in its investigation into the 2017 accident. Support continues to be made available to all students, instructors and staff impacted by this tragedy.

For further information, please contact:

Bryan Weismiller, Communications Officer Mount Royal University
Cell: 403.978.1365
Media cell: 403.463.6930
mediarelations@mtroyal.ca


Feb. 18, 2017 — 9:40 a.m.

As it has been reported, Mount Royal University is mourning the loss of two experienced pilot instructors, Jeffrey (Jeff) Bird and Reynold (Reyn) Johnson, who died in a tragic plane accident on the February 13, 2017. Our hearts are with their families, friends, colleagues and students.

Jeff and Reyn

Jeff was an experienced pilot who joined Mount Royal University as a Class 3 flight instructor for Mount Royal’s aviation program in 2016. He had experience in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and in Edmonton, Alberta with the 408 squadron as a pilot and an instructor.

Reyn had a 35-year career in aviation. He was hired at Time Air as a first officer in 1988 and flew with them as a captain through the various corporate changes to Canadian Regional Airlines and Jazz Airlines. He retired from commercial flights in April 2015. He began teaching at Mount Royal in 2016. The family requests privacy during this difficult time.

The tragedy

Late on the afternoon of Monday, February 13, 2017, one of three twin-engine TECNAM P2006Ts in Mount Royal’s fleet was doing a routine flight from Springbank Airport within the Springbank flight practice area. The two instructor pilots were the sole occupants on board. The plane went missing and was discovered later to have had an accident northwest of Cochrane, Alberta.

Current actions

Mount Royal remains committed to working with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Work Safe Alberta during the ongoing review. All regulatory authorities have completed the on-site portions of their investigations. Given regulatory processes, we have no more detailed information about the accident that can be shared.

Over the next week, the families will hold memorial services. The Multi-Faith Chaplaincy is working on a memorial service for the campus community. Further information will be shared when these plans are finalized.

Mount Royal is providing counselling and a range of support services to employees and students.

On Feb. 22, instructors will resume flights. On Feb. 27, students will resume aviation classes and flights. In both cases, a number of steps are in place to ensure readiness to fly. All planes will be inspected to clear they are flight worthy.

Honouring Jeff and Reyn, the flags on the Mount Royal campus are being flown at half-mast.

The most current information, including a Q&A and messages of condolences received by Mount Royal, is available at mtroyal.ca.

Aviation program

Mount Royal’s aviation program started to train commercial pilots in 1970. The fleet had a total of eight planes: five single-engine Cessna 172s and three twin-engine TECNAMs – one of which was involved in this tragedy.

There are 66 enrolled students in the program currently – who will earn more than 200 hours of total flying experience across Western Canada that give them a multi-engine, instrument flying rating and will prepare them to take the Transport Canada commercial pilot license exams.

Mount Royal employs a comprehensive safety management system which is overseen by a dedicated safety officer. Mount Royal is also accredited by the world-leading Aviation Accreditation Board International.

Appreciation

Mount Royal is receiving many letters of support, condolences and assistance from the aviation community, other post-secondary institutions, all levels of government, partners, alumni, donors and the public. We appreciate this greatly.

We also thank the first responders who assisted on Monday, February 13, 2017. We are grateful for their service.

For the Mount Royal campus community

Students who are looking for counselling can drop-in at the Wellness Centre between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in U 216. To make individual student or group appointments, please call 403.440.6362. After hours, students will be referred to the 24/7 Distress Line at 403.266.HELP. More information can be found online.

For staff, please call Homewood Health at 1.800.663.1142. Then please press number 1, ask for a counsellor and reference Mount Royal.


Feb. 15, 2017 —  3:40 p.m.

As Mount Royal University mourns the loss of two highly respected pilot instructors, questions are being asked about the next steps for the institution, its Aviation program and everyone connected to the tragedy that occurred on Feb. 13.

Mount Royal’s main concern lies with the families of Reyn Johnson, Jeff Bird and the aviation community.

An investigation is underway. Mount Royal remains committed to working with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Work Safe Alberta during the ongoing review. This will take time.

Today, community members are invited to sign a guestbook or leave memorial items on campus at the Bissett School of Business.

Since our last update, Mount Royal has learned of another fatality in the history of its Aviation program. According to an archived record, Al Milne was involved in a plane crash in 1973.

At this time, this is the only other aviation fatality that Mount Royal is aware of involving its training program.

For further information, please contact:

Bryan Weismiller, Communications Officer Mount Royal University
Cell: 403.978.1365
Media cell: 403.463.6930
mediarelations@mtroyal.ca


 Feb. 14, 2017 — 6:43 p.m.

Confirmation of the name of the second pilot, Reynold Johnson

We can now confirm the name of the second pilot who died as a result of yesterday’s tragedy.

His name is Reynold Johnson and he was known as Reyn. He had a 35-year career in aviation with Air Canada and then Jazz.

He is an alumnus of the University of Lethbridge.

Our thoughts are with the family as they grieve the loss of Reyn.  


Feb. 14, 2017 — 4:10 p.m.

"Today has been an extremely difficult day for everyone here on campus.

As a community, we are still very much grieving the tragic loss of two experienced pilot instructors. As it’s been reported, Mount Royal University and aviation communities have been mourning the loss of two experienced pilot instructors today – one of which we will confirm is Jeffrey (Jeff) Bird.

Jeff was an experienced pilot who joined Mount Royal University as a Class 3 flight instructor for Mount Royal’s aviation program.

Prior to joining the Mount Royal team, Jeff was a pilot instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Before this, Jeff was a helicopter pilot in Edmonton, Alberta, with the 408 squadron.

I’ve spoken to the family and can tell you they are understandably heartbroken. The family of the other pilot has not provided us permission to release his name. We will continue to respect this request.

To reiterate what we reported this morning, a serious aviation incident occurred involving a twin-engine TECNAM plane from Mount Royal University’s fleet while on a routine flight. Our foremost concern remains with the families of the deceased and the aviation community.

We continue to work with them to support their wishes in regards to a memorial. Mount Royal is providing counselling and a range of support services to employees and students. Communications about these options have been made available to them throughout the day.

Aviation-specific classes have been cancelled for the remainder of the week and the Mount Royal fleet has been voluntarily grounded until further notice.

We are cooperating with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Work Safe Alberta as they investigate the incident. Updates will be provided on our website as further information is confirmed.

I want to thank the aviation community, post-secondaries, our campus and government partners for their amazing support today.

Calgarians, alumni, donors and many other partners have been both kind and sensitive.

Thank you. In closing, again my heart goes out to families, friends and colleagues."

Dr. David Docherty
President Mount Royal University
 


Feb. 14, 2017 — 1:40 p.m.

Update on aviation tragedy at Mount Royal

As reported this morning, a serious aviation incident occurred involving a twin-engine TECNAM plane from Mount Royal University’s fleet while on a routine flight.

Two experienced pilot instructors were the sole occupants on board, and there were no survivors.

Our foremost concern remains with the families of the deceased and the aviation community.

In partnership with the families, students and the aviation community, Mount Royal will support their wishes in regards to a memorial. 

Mount Royal is providing counselling and a range of support services to employees and students. Aviation-specific classes have been cancelled for the remainder of the week and the Mount Royal fleet has been voluntarily grounded until further notice.

Officials of Mount Royal have been working with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Work Safe Alberta to investigate the incident.

We thank the first responders who assisted last night and we are grateful for their service.

Updates will be provided as further information is confirmed.


Feb. 14, 2017 — 12:25 p.m.

Aviation tragedy questions and answers


Feb. 14, 2017 — 5:57 a.m.

President David Docherty to respond to tragic plane crash involving Mount Royal University instructors

Mount Royal University is mourning the loss of two flight instructors following a plane crash west of the Springbank Airport yesterday.

The cause of the incident is still being investigated. Officials with Mount Royal University are currently working with authorities.

Mount Royal University President David Docherty provided the following statement:

“This is a devastating loss for the entire Mount Royal University community. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family, friends, colleagues and students of these two instructors.

Our immediate focus is on supporting those affected. Services have been made available to all students and instructors impacted by this tragedy.”

Updates will be provided when further information is confirmed.

For further information, please contact:

Bryan Weismiller, Communications Officer Mount Royal University
Cell: 403.978.1365
Media cell: 403.463.6930
mediarelations@mtroyal.ca


Feb. 13, 2017 — 11:25 p.m.

"A serious aviation incident occurred northwest of Cochrane, Alberta, involving an aircraft from Mount Royal University’s fleet. Two instructors were the sole occupants onboard, and there were no survivors.

Our foremost concern lies with the families of the deceased, and the aviation community.

Officials with Mount Royal University have been working with authorities.

Our sincerest sympathies are extended to families, friends and colleagues.

Updates will be provided as further information is confirmed."

Dr. David Docherty
President Mount Royal University


For further information, please contact:

Bryan Weismiller, Communications Officer Mount Royal University
Cell: 403.978.1365
Media cell: 403.463.6930
mediarelations@mtroyal.ca