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'We're trained to do it, and we do it': Pilot gives first hand account of crash landing

The man who piloted the plane that landed in a farmer's field and flipped over on Sunday says he feels grateful that he and his two passengers are alive.

'I'm thankful to God that He provided a field right near us'

Firefighters survey the scene where a plane flipped over after landing in a farmer's field in Hampton, P.E.I. (Richie Bulger/CBC)

The man who piloted the plane that landed in a farmer's field and flipped over on Sunday says he's grateful that he and his two passengers are alive.  

Paul Tymstra was forced to land his Cessna airplane in the field, after its only engine cut out at 2,000 feet in the air. 

"Absolutely it is remarkable. I'm thankful to God that He provided a field right near us," said Tymstra.

"Because there's a lot of different places you can have an engine failure, and especially when you're lower, you don't have a lot of time."

Pilot Paul Tymstra says the ground was too soft to handle the emergency landing, causing the plane's nose to dig in and the aircraft to flip over. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

Tymstra said he was 45 minutes into the sightseeing flight with two passengers — John Hayden and his 13-year-old son John Hayden Jr. — when the trouble started. 

'Everyone was calm in the cockpit'

"We were just flying along, taking some pictures, and having some conversations about different things," said Tymstra.  "And then the engine basically stopped developing power."

Tymstra said he informed the two passengers he'd have to make an emergency landing in a field, and told them to "fasten their seatbelts."

"Everyone was calm in the cockpit," said Tymstra. "I don't get nervous about things like that, because we're trained to do it, and we do it. We go through a lot of emergency training, every scenario possible."

Paul Tymstra looks over his Cessna single-engine plane, just two days before its engine failed, forcing him to make an emergency landing. (Malcolm Campbell/CBC)

With the plane just 2,000 feet in the air, Tymstra said he had little time to choose a safe place to land.  He quickly spotted a long, sloped farmer's field in Hampton, P.E.I., alongside the Trans-Canada Highway. 

"We had about a minute and a half from the time it happened to the time of landing," he said. "But I felt calm and confident. Generally, airplanes do land on grass and it's a non-event."

Soft soil

But Tymstra said because so much rain has fallen on P.E.I. recently, the field was too soft to effectively handle the plane's landing. 

We had about a minute and a half from the time it happened to the time of landing.- Paul Tymstra, Pilot 

"We touched down … the plane was heading down the hill, but as it rolled out, you could feel the nose go down and dig into the soft soil. Then the plane overturned on its back. That wasn't a fun feeling."

According to the pilot, after the plane flipped over, it came to a stop. While the crash damaged the Cessna's nose and tail, Tymstra and his two passengers walked away with only bruises.

'A very lucky escape'

The wife and mother of the two passengers, Mary Hayden, said both were "shaken up" by the crash, but are otherwise doing fine. 

Hayden said she's grateful Tymstra's training and experience paid off, and that he was able to land the plane "as safely as possible."

"When you see the pictures of the plane upside down in the field, it's kind of a bit jarring," said Hayden.

The crash caused damage to the nose and tail of the single engine plane. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"There are so many variables, so many things could have happened, and I don't want to think about them too much.  I'm just so relieved they're okay, and that nobody died in the accident. It was a very lucky escape."

Hayden said her 13-year-old son John is passionate about flying, and even after Sunday's accident, he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. 

"He has absolutely no fear of going back up again," said Hayden.  "I'm a little nervous about that. I think we'll have a little break from flying again, certainly small planes at least."

​Cause of engine failure still unknown 

The Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating Sunday's crash

Tymstra said he has spoken to investigators, but isn't sure himself what went wrong. 

He said he had completed all the required safety checks before taking off Sunday. 

"It's very rare for an engine to quit. There's usually a sign that things are coming up," he said. "I don't know what it was quite honestly at this point."

Tymstra had just been was given certification by Transport Canada to run Sea Eagle Aviation — a flight school and sightseeing operation. 

He said he's looking to lease another plane, and to get his business back up and running as soon as possible. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back up in the air," said Tymstra. "The sooner the better really. We'll do things safely and carry on."