Jet crashes near Cold Lake, Alta.

The two pilots involved in the crash of a training jet near CFB Cold Lake, Alta., Friday said they hope to be back in the air as soon as possible.
The plane went down near Cold Lake, Alta. (Courtesy of Hunter Mitchell )

The two pilots involved in the crash of a training jet near CFB Cold Lake, Alta., Friday said they hope to be back in the air as soon as possible.

Lt.-Col. Lee Vogan, a Canadian, and Jens Lundgreen-Nielsen, a member of the Royal Danish Air Force, sustained minor injuries after they ejected from the CT-155 Hawk aircraft just before it crashed about 3½ kilometres southeast of the Cold Lake runway.

"I feel a little beat up," Vogan told reporters Friday. "A bit of an exciting couple of moments but as you can see, I'm feeling pretty good. I think we both felt pretty fine right afterwards."

Vogan and Lundgreen-Nielsen, who are both flight instructors at the base, were in one of two planes involved in a training exercise just before noon MT.

Lt.-Col. Lee Vogan was in the front seat of the plane that crashed. (CBC)
"Shortly after, we experienced a loud bang from the engine. We stopped what we were doing and headed towards base and started going through our checks," Lundgreen-Nielsen said. "Eventually we were forced to shut down the engine."

The men considered their options, which included doing a forced landing, where the plane would essentially glide towards the runway. But the plane couldn't gain enough altitude to perform the operation so the men decided to eject.

"Once we found a place we thought it would go down comfortably, we made sure that it was going to be reasonable for us and we elected to eject at that time," Vogan said.

The men landed in an area of muskeg.

'Big ball of fire'

Once they were on the ground, the student they were training was circling the area in his plane and people on the ground stopped to help.

"[They] were asking us if we were OK, if we needed a cell phone. One of them threw out a rope that helped us just walk easier through the swampy area," Lundgreen-Nielsen said. "So it was kind of nice."

Flight instructor Jens Lundgreen-Nielsen said his arms were a bit sore from the incident but he was feeling fine. (CBC)
The base commander, Col. Dave Wheeler, praised the actions of the two pilots.

"The result of actually ejecting out of the aircraft, obviously, is not an easy one to make, but they made the right decision because if they didn't they would be in the fireball with the aircraft itself," he said. 

Mike Groulx saw the crash while he was driving with his son on Highway 26.

"We were right there," Groulx told CBC News. "We were driving over airplane pieces on the road 'cause it had crashed in a farmer's field ... and it had skidded across the road into the people's yard.

"It was just a big ball of fire when we were there. Lots of smoke, lots of fire, lots of little explosions."

Groulx also saw one pilot with a deflated parachute standing in swamp just off the side of the highway.

The military is now conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash. No homes or structures were damaged.

Both pilots have years of experience: Vogan is a 23-year veteran; Lundgreen-Nielsen has been flying for 14 years. Lundgreen-Nielsen has been instructing at CFB Cold Lake for 4½ years.

This is the second crash near Cold Lake in the last seven months. In November, Capt. Darren Blakie ejected just before his CF-18 went down in a field about 13 kilometres northwest of CFB Cold Lake.

Cold Lake is located about 240 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.