The family of one of the pilots killed in a plane crash earlier this week has asked that people remember Jeff Bird as an accomplished pilot and a family man.
Bird was one of two instructors from the Mount Royal University aviation program killed west of Calgary on Monday.
“He’s just the most dependable, honest man that I’ve ever met.”
His brother David spoke to Global News and remembered his brother as a man dedicated to his family and his country.
“Somewhere along the way, he just developed this huge love for aviation and becoming a pilot,” David Bird said. “He always had this dream of flying planes and helicopters and he got to do a lot of both.”
Jeff Bird graduated from Calgary’s Lord Beaverbrook High School and the University of Calgary. Later, he joined the military and pursued a career in aviation.
He spent 11 years in the military, including a six-month stint in Afghanistan in 2011.
“When his country called on him… he was able to go to Afghanistan and represent so well. It was pretty special”.
Jeff married his wife Carly five years ago and the couple have two children. The youngest is only five-months-old.
“I know she (Carly) was proud of his career,” David said. “Probably a bit worried at times but extremely proud.
“They were just perfect for each other. As soon as my brother met her, you could just tell it was different and he spoke so highly of her.”
His brother said the reason he joined the MRU program is because he wanted to make sure he would be home to put his children to bed.
“This Mount Royal position allowed him to still fly and keep his passion up but also be at home”.
Bird was on a routine flight on Monday when his plane lost contact. His family was still confident that he would survive.
“It was just going to be, ‘Jeff does it again’ because he survived a tour and everything,” his brother explained. “It was just devastating that never happened.”
Bird was flying with Reynold “Reyn” Johnson, another instructor at MRU, when their plane crashed in a remote area northwest of Cochrane. Johnson’s family has asked for privacy during this difficult time.
The Transportation Safety Board said it could be several months before any new information on the cause of the crash is released.
Jeff Bird’s family is holding a service for him on Sunday.
ABOVE: Jeff Bird is shown with his nephew