Mount Royal mourns
MRU plane piloted by two Mount Royal aviation instructors crashed, no survivors
By Jennifer Dorozio, News Editor
On Feb. 13, just before 6 p.m., one of the seven planes owned by Mount Royal, a twin-engine Tecnam, fatally crashed while two MRU aviation instructors were on board.
The next day the two instructors were identified as Reynold “Reyn” Johnson and Jeffrey Bird. Johnson had a 35 year career in aviation working with both Air Canada and Jazz. Bird had more recently joined the team at MRU and was formerly a pilot instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Moose Jaw, Sask.
In a tearful statement the day after the crash MRU President David Docherty expressed the impact the loss of the two exceptional instructors will have on MRU faculty and students, along with sympathy to the victims’ families.
“Today has been an extremely difficult day for everyone here on campus,” said Docherty.
Johnson and Bird were reported to have been on a ”routine training flight” when something went terribly wrong. There has been speculation about how the crash happened but at press time MRU had not released a statement on those details yet.
All MRU flights and aviation classes have been cancelled for the week and the program’s fleet is voluntarily grounded until further notice. Docherty stressed that,”The program will continue, what we will do is make sure that both the students and instructors will get back in the planes when the students and instructors are ready to fly.”
Luc Sinal, president of the aviation student executive, also addressed the media on Feb. 14. He described the two crash victims as, “extraordinary flight instructors.”
Sinal went on to say that the small aviation program is very close, “like family”, and that about 40 students met in a dorm after hearing the shocking news in order to to share memories about the two instructors.
It is this “tight-knit community”- the aviation program only accepts around 30 students per year- that makes the tragedy that much, “more tragic,” says Docherty.
MRU is providing counselling to grieving students, “There was a lot of handholding , a lot of sitting in circles and talking, “ said Docherty, choking up again. “The tough part is they feel the loss personally, but they’re bonding together to make sure that everyone will get through this, they are so supportive of each other, that was incredibly touching.
Docherty mentioned that there will be what’s called a “pop-up memorial” soon where people will be able to express grief at MRU.
“It is very, very tragic because these are individuals [for whom] flying is their life and they wanted to teach others to fly and fulfill their dreams,” Doherty says.