Gord Kurbis Journalist, CTV Vancouver Island

VICTORIA — Despite 57 years of flying experience under his belt, pilot Joel Eilertsen realized you can’t be too complacent. His lesson came after the plane he was piloting made a hard landing on the ocean near Campbell River on Thursday morning.

“It was a little bit of a stupid mistake on my part and that’s all there is to it,” Eilertsen says. “As pilots, we have to admit when we make mistakes. We can’t be trying to blame anybody else for something.”

The 74-year-old runs a charter business out of Coal Harbour on the north end of Vancouver Island and was bringing his plane to Campbell River for maintenance when the mishap occurred.

He was landing in the water off of Painter’s Lodge, something he says he has done thousands of times before.

“Everybody is saying, ‘Boy, you were lucky,’ but luck is made,” he says.

Eilertsen wasn’t injured in the incident and says he was wearing a shoulder belt and flotation device when his plane hit the water. He says two boats came to his assistance right away.

“I was just coming in and I wasn’t paying attention. The aircraft was level and the airspeed had dropped off and I was about 20 feet off the water,” he says.

The nose hit and busted the spreader bar and the aircraft was then leaning to one side.

Asked what his initial thoughts were when the plane was going down, Eilertsen says he thought “Oh boy, this is going to hurt,” he says.

Mike Miller witnessed the mishap from his home near the lodge.

“I was just typing on my computer and looking out the window and boom,” Miller says. “The nose went in, I ran in and got my wife and called 911.”

He says it took a while before the pilot appeared out of the aircraft.

He says the first to arrive on the scene was a water taxi, perhaps two to three minutes after the plane came down, and then the coast guard.

Millers says the sun shining in the eyes of the pilot may have been a factor in the crash.

The 1967 De Havilland Turbo Beaver was towed by a coast guard vessel to the Sealand Aviation facility in Campbell River and is already undergoing repairs.