Air show pilot Super Dave Mathieson thought he was a goner last Sunday.
He was flying the MX-2 after lunch when the custom-built engine malfunctioned.
The aircraft started shaking violently and smoke was pouring out of the back of it.
“I thought that was it,” he told The Progress.
The motor “grenaded” at the end of a tricky manoeuvre he was working on, meaning it blew up from the inside after letting out a loud bang.
He was about eight kilometres away from the nearest runway when his aircraft lost oil pressure suddenly, and started “sounding like an old Model T Ford,” he told The Progress.
“It was brutal. It would have been a mess.”
Due to complaints, Mathieson was prohibited earlier this year by Transport Canada from practising his signature torque rolls and dives that he does under 2000 feet. So he was doing his routines over private land near the Vedder Canal in order to rehearse for upcoming air shows.
The high-performance engine was knocking and billowing smoke as he turned around and pointed the nose back in the direction of the airport.
He had to land right away, Mathieson added, but the highway was too busy.
Whereas a Cessna or other standard plane lands at about 40 miles an hour, he lands three times faster, at about 120 miles an hour.
“I knew if I touched down in a field at this speed, I would have rolled into a ball.”
He did manage to land on the runway at the Chilliwack Airport and taxied in.
He called the mechanics and was told out nothing could be salvaged of the engine, a 580 Thunderbolt, with 400 horsepower.
On Thursday morning he was still waiting for a replacement engine to be delivered.
Airport management met with Transport Canada reps recently were told Super Dave’s practising over the airport, in the past with permission by virtue of a Special Flight Operating Certificate, a SFOC, was not in the “public’s best interest.”
They made the formal decision early in the year, and told Super Dave reps that it wasn’t about noise or safety issues after all, but about the complaints.
“I think the people who signed those complaint letters should be ashamed,” he said.
He is now hoping that fans will continue to write support letters, and that the decision will be re-visisted.
“I was told to get the community behind me, but I already did that,” he said. “So I guess we need more letters.”
Team Super Dave is planning to meet with Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl on June 28 to plead his case.
He is preparing pre-stamped envelopes addressed to the Transportation Minister at Transport Canada, which he will make available by handing them out at the upcoming Flight Fest air show in Chilliwack.