Pilot of fatal floatplane crash was a passionate and safe aviator, sister says

Pilot of fatal floatplane crash was a passionate and safe aviator, sister says
Watch56-year-old Al McBain has been identified by family and friends as the pilot, and one of the four victims of a floatplane that crashed on a remote central B.C. island late Friday morning. With 20 years of flying under his belt, coworkers say he was a solid pilot, but an even better man.

It’s a west coast plane crash that’s stunned B.C.’s aviation community.

“It’s heartbreaking, I just can’t believe it, I’m just shocked,” said Roger Patry, who works for Air Canada.

A chartered SeaAir Seaplanes floatplane heading to a fishing lodge on the remote Calvert island, just 100 kilometres north of Port Hardy, crashed en route on a stormy Friday morning.

“It is the rain coast, but this was torrential rain – it was harder rain than anyone had seen,” said Eric Peterson, with Calvert Island’s Hakai Institute.

The tragic crash killed four passengers and injured five.

Fifty-six-year-old Al McBain is being identified by family and friends as the pilot; an avid aviator who had 20 plus years of flying under his belt.

“If I was on that plane, I would want Al up there trying to get us down safely,” said Patry, who worked with McBain for 2o years at Air Canada.

“I don’t think anybody knew the area or the terrain like Al did.”

Friends say McBain followed his hero’s footsteps, his dad’s, into aviation. And soon it became his everything.

“You know it wasn’t only his passion, it was his life,” said Patry

“I would almost say he was a perfectionist. Everything he did, he did it well and he did it by the rules.”

McBain started working with Air Canada in 1996, and then SeaAir some five years later.

But it was at the controls of a floatplane, where his family says he was at home.

“He was so connected with nature, and that’s why the floatplane was such a perfect thing for him,” said Saanich councillor and Al’s sister, Nathalie Chambers.

“It gave him access to some of the most remote areas of the coast of British Columbia.”

McBain took breathtaking photos along his journeys. But he also left his mark on the ground.

“He always walked around with a smile. He was the kind of person that didn’t have a small group of friends, he spoke to everybody,” said Patry.

“I think a lot of people forget how close you become with the people you work with.”

And Chambers is remembering her brother, as her hero.

“My dad passed away when I was 17,” said Chambers through tears.

“Dancing with dad at grad was the norm. [Al] didn’t want me to feel bad, so he came as my date. That was Al. He just did these really sweet things, these surprises when you weren’t expecting them.”

Before the crash, McBain was months away from retirement. And although he never got to realize that dream, Al McBain is being remembered as a man who lived every day doing what he loved.

None of the passengers have yet been publicly identified by authorities. The BC Coroners Service have recovered all the bodies of the deceased, and say they’re in the midst of transporting the bodies for a full examination to confirm their identities.

There is no update on the status of the survivors who were air-evacuated to hospitals. On the ground, the investigation into how and why this plane crashed also continues, with authorities on all fronts saying this investigation will take time.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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