Alberta’s gliding community is grieving the loss of two pilots after a crash on Friday afternoon near Black Diamond.
Allan Wood, 68, was flying a glider with 18-year-old student Adam Leinweber near the Cu Nim Gliding Club on Friday when the glider was involved in a mid-air collision with a tow plane.
Wood and Leinweber were both from Calgary.
“It’s been tough,” said Kerry Stevenson, president of the Cu Nim Gliding Club.
“Our hearts are broken. These people are our friends and we help each other achieve our soaring goals, help each other get up in the sky and learn from each other.”
He said the gliding club is a not-for-profit group so the instruction is free, but he added: “The experience level of the instruction is very high.”
Stevenson described Wood as a dedicated and cautious glider pilot who started gliding on his 50th birthday.
“He brought in a lot of protocols and instruction that created a lot of safety in our club. He was a true leader in that.
“He was a man of great character who always did the right thing.
“He just loved instructing and loved people. I don’t think he could say a sentence without a smile or a laugh at the end,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said Leinweber was a recent graduate of Crescent Heights High School with honours, who was enrolled in a physics program at the University of Calgary and belonged to 604 Moose Squadron of the Air Cadets.
“He was a wonderful, loving soul. He contributed here so much and he was close to licensing.
“He had soloed with us. He was an excellent pilot — just tremendous skill. I fly with a lot of pilots and he was a natural,” Stevenson said.
Leinweber was with the club for two years.
WATCH (July 26, 2019): Global1 helicopter video shows RCMP at the scene of a fatal crash involving a glider plane and a tow plane on Friday, July 26 near Black Diamond, Alta.
Stevenson said the first priority at the club will be focusing on the families and the next step is for the club to get together.
The club announced on Saturday it was suspending operations for the time being.
“We have to meet and heal and talk with each other. We really loved these pilots. We can’t go forward until we are ready to.
“The pilots’ hearts and minds have to be ready to fly. When you are flying, you are totally focused on your flying,” Stevenson said.
The club has received many calls of support from gliding clubs across the country. The Edmonton Soaring Club joined fellow clubs and suspended operations on Saturday. The club also planned to hold a gathering on the field Sunday for members to grieve and come together in this difficult time.
Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board wrapped up their examination at the crash site on Saturday.
The investigation into what caused the crash continues.