VERNON, B.C. – A pilot whose flying car would be right at home in a James Bond movie says his life flashed before his eyes Friday when the contraption went out of control as it was landing at the airport in Vernon, B.C.
“It seemed there was an anomaly on our approach to landing,” Ray Siebring said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from the crash site.
“It was just a sharp left turn that turned into a spiral, so the spiral took at least three rotations.”
As the Maverick — which looks like a dune buggy with a large propeller on its rear — started losing altitude, Siebring realized there was a semi-populated area that included a school directly in his path.
The situation called for quick thinking.
”I experienced one of those … moments where time slows down,” he said. “The training kicked in so that we were able to operate the aircraft and move it to a safe area.
”We were able to stop the rotation, but our altitude was critically low. I gave full power to dampen the forced landing and directed the aircraft … away from the school and into some woods.”
RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk said the road-worthy flying car, the creation of a Florida company, crashed near the school with the pilot and one of his relatives aboard.
“It made a circle like it was going to approach, (then) obviously something happened,” said Molendyk. “They heard it from the airport power up and then it crashed into the trees, through the fence on the edge of the school (grounds).”
Both occupants were taken to hospital but were expected to recover from their injuries.
No one was hurt on the ground although children from the school were preparing take to the nearby grounds for a track and field day.
Dale Olsen, a teacher at the nearby Fulton Secondary School, and said it was the talk of the morning.
“A lot of the kids saw it around school this morning,” he said. “They said it looked like it stalled, the parachute started crumpling up and they couldn’t get it going again.”
Siebring defended the safety record of the Maverick.
”This is an aircraft that has been demonstrated and is airworthy so we passed all our aircraft certifications,” he said.
The car uses a parasail for take-off and flight and needs a 100-metre runway.
Siebring’s Maverick is the fifth ever made. He has been checking it out in a series of test flights across the Okanagan.
Friday’s crash won’t deter him from continuing to develop the flying machine that he hopes one day could be used for medevac missions and to ferry medical supplies from ships offshore from Third World regions.
“We look to learn some good lessons today and I’m one of the few pilots who actually gets to do that,” he said.
”I’m not scared off on the technology behind it; how would I say, not gun shy but very sober, we will take a sober look at every aspect of this flight.”