One of Canada’s most revered pilots was injured when his vintage aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Gatineau Executive Airport at about midday Wednesday.
John Aitken, a veteran fighter pilot of the RCAF and former head of the test flight program for the NRC, is in the hospital following the incident.
“As far as we’re being told, he’ll be recovering for a bit but he’ll be at 100 per cent at some point in the future,” said Ottawa businessman and aircraft enthusiast Michael Potter, who owns the crashed plane. Potter said Aitken has a broken rib and a broken nose.
Aitken was piloting the Robert Hampton Gray Goodyear FG-1D Corsair, a craft which saw action in the Second World War and the Korean War. Aitken was in the air for about a 30-minute flight as he had planned to do, but some unknown circumstance caused the plane to go off the runway during landing, Potter said.
The fire department happened to be on scene for training at the time of the crash, and Potter said firefighters were “magnificent” in rushing to Aitken’s aid.
Potter said that he didn’t know the exact nature of the damage to the plane, because at the time of writing a few hours after the incident, protocol deems it too dangerous to approach the downed craft.
Paul Tremblay, the chief mechanic at Vintage Wings of Canada, the historical society that keeps and showcases a number of former warplanes at the airport, said he’s sure that “we’ll definitely be able to get it going again.”
But the damage is enough to keep the plane from attending the Thunder over Michigan air show in August, which had 10 of the extremely rare Corsairs lined up to attend.
“It’s going to be the biggest gathering of Corsairs in years,” said Tremblay. “Maybe next year.”
Aitken, who flew CF-18s with the RCAF, is a holder of the McKee Trophy, which is awarded for outstanding achievement in aviation. “He’s one of the most acclaimed pilots in Canada today,” Potter said.
“He should end up in the Aviation Hall of Fame. That’s what kind of an aviator he is,” Tremblay said.
With files from Norm Provencher.