February 13, 2017 10:27 pm
Updated: February 24, 2017 9:33 am

Flight instructors killed in plane crash near Calgary were experienced pilots: Mount Royal University president

WATCH ABOVE: Mount Royal University President David Docherty speaks to reporters at 4 p.m. MT

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The president of Mount Royal University says two aviation instructors killed in a plane crash west of Calgary on Monday were experienced pilots.

The men have been identifed as Jeff Bird and Reynold “Reyn” Johnson.

Cochrane RCMP were first alerted to the crash at around 5:55 p.m. by a witness in another aircraft who saw a plane crash east of Highway 40 in the Waiparous area.

The small passenger plane was later located in a remote area northwest of Cochrane, near Highway 40 and Highway 579.

Mount Royal University president David Docherty said the aircraft involved belonged to the university and the two people on board were instructors.

Docherty said no students were in the plane.

“They were in an area that’s a normal path for instruction to take place and it’s not uncommon for two instructors to be up in plane together.”

“Our planes are in the air 364 days a year.”

“In partnership with the families, students and the aviation community, Mount Royal will support their wishes in regards to a memorial,” reads an update from the university Tuesday afternoon.

Watch below: Video at the scene of Monday’s fatal plane crash west of Calgary shows the wreckage still smoking on the ground Tuesday morning. Two Mount Royal University aviation instructors were killed in the crash.

Docherty said they have both full-time and part-time staff in the aviation department, all of whom are not just pilots but also licensed instructors. In addition, instructors are required to have completed a minimum number of flight hours.

In total, Docherty said MRU had eight planes; three twin-engine TECNAM P2006Ts and five single-engine Cessna 172s. The plane that crashed was one of the three twin-engine planes.

Docherty described the TECNAM twin-engine plane as being a “relatively recent” addition to the fleet.

WATCH: Mount Royal University’s School of Aviation unveils a new fleet on April 12, 2012, including four single-engine Cessna C-172 Skyhawks and three Tecnam P2006Ts. 

“Today as a community, Mount Royal University grieves the tragic loss of two aviation instructors,” Docherty said. “At a difficult time, our sincerest condolences, first and foremost, go to the families of those instructors.

“Our hearts are also with our aviation students – many of whom are here today — our facility, our staff, as well as our aviation community.”

RAW VIDEO: Mount Royal University president David Docherty addresses the deaths of two aviation instructors killed in a plane crash near Calgary

Classes in the aviation program have been temporarily cancelled.

“We’re grounding the fleet temporarily,” Docherty said. “We want to make sure that students are ready to get back and fly – when they’re ready to get back and fly.”

MRU said services will be made available to students and staff impacted by the deaths.

Students react to news 2 aviation instructors were killed

Speaking on behalf of his fellow aviation students, Luc Sinal, president of the Aviation Student Executive, said they found out about the fatal crash in an email from the university.

“Myself and about 40 of my friends spent the night crammed into a residence room until 2 a.m. talking about our favourite memories from these two extraordinary flight instructors.”

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Luc said the instructors helped their students embrace their passion for aviation, saying students were “extremely close” with them.

“There are about 60 of us students between both years [of the program], split between approximately 12 flight instructors. The time we spend with these instructors is usually on a one-on-one basis, so we get to know them extremely well and on an extremely personal level.”

Docherty said university officials would be assisting with the investigation in whatever way they could.

WATCH: Speaking on behalf of his fellow aviation students, Luc Sinal, president of the Aviation Student Executive, said the death of two Mount Royal University flight instructors has been challenging

Students who are looking for counselling can make appointments at the Wellness Centre (U216). To make individual or group appointments, call 403-440-6362.

Staff, however, are asked to call Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada launches investigation

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the crash. In a phone interview with Global News, spokesperson Johnathon Lee said it could be days before they’ll be able to release any details on what happened.

“[Investigators] are still processing information at the site, taking measurements, taking photographs,” Lee said. “The next steps will be going to the Mount Royal operations at the Springbank Airport to collect more information and to conduct interviews.”

Lee said they have secured radar of the flight path from NavCanada, and are in the process of reviewing it. He confirmed the plane left from the Springbank Airport but said it’s not known how long the plane was in air before the crash.

WATCH: Staff and students from Mount Royal University are mourning after two instructors were killed in a plane crash in the Waiporous Creek area. Tony Tighe has details. 

With files from Global’s Gary Bobrovitz

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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