Steel-nerved pilot lands safely despite float plane’s ‘catastrophic failure’

National Post | News

More than a kilometre above the dense forests of Vancouver Island last Sunday, Richard Johnston suddenly found himself piloting a 1,500-kilogram float plane without power.

“The prop came to a grinding halt,” said the veteran trail lawyer. “It was fairly evident to me I had suffered a catastrophic failure.”

Flying solo in a 1967 Cessna 185E Skywagon float plane — historically, a favourite of Canadian bush pilots — Mr. Johnston was travelling between his home in Nanaimo, B.C., and Bamfield, a remote community of 150 on the western edge of Vancouver Island.

He had flown the overland route “about 50 times” and had just finished climbing up to 4,500 feet after a sea-level takeoff.

The engine only gave 45 seconds of warning before it gave out, he says. First, a grinding, then, a sputtering, and then, after a final death rattle, nothing more than the eerie rush of wind.


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