Calgary

Experienced gliding instructor and student killed in mid-air collision with tow plane

An experienced gliding instructor and his student were killed in a mid-air collision with a tow plane in southern Alberta on Friday.

Cu Nim Gliding Club, located south of Calgary, lost 2 of its members Friday afternoon

The mid-air collision on Friday resulted in the glider crashing, but the tow plane, right, did not, according to RCMP. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

An experienced gliding instructor and his student were killed in a mid-air collision with a tow plane in southern Alberta on Friday.

Emergency officials said the single-engine tow plane struck a two-seat glider, causing the latter to crash and killing both glider pilots.

The pilot of the single-engine tow was able to safely land the plane and was not transported to hospital.

The accident happened near Black Diamond, Alta., about 40 kilometres south of Calgary, just after 4 p.m. MT.

The crash took place across Range Road 22 from the Cu Nim Gliding Club, just outside of Black Diamond, Alta. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Jason Acker, president of the Alberta Soaring Council, said the two glider pilots were on a training flight and that the instructor was one of the most experienced gliders in Alberta.

"It hit all of us very hard," he said. "We all know the pilots involved in the accident. We only have 150 members across the province."

Mid-air collisions 'extremely rare'

Acker said not only is the gliding community small, but crashes like this are "extremely unusual."

"Mid-air collisions are extremely rare in our sport. Unfortunately when they do happen they tend to result in the tragic loss of life, like the incident yesterday," Acker said.

"In the 30 years that I've been involved in the sport I can't recall a fatal accident [in Alberta]."

Acker said gliders carry collision avoidance devices, and that this glider was under "normal gliding operations" at the time of the crash.

He said he wasn't able to provide further details or name the two pilots involved as the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is still investigating.

Gliding clubs across the province have closed for the weekend to allow members to mourn and discuss how to move forward, Acker said.

The Cu Nim Gliding Club announced in a Facebook post they would remain closed until its community could "grieve the loss and celebrate the memory" of its two members.

"There are risks inherent to soaring and efforts are made to ensure safety for all," wrote the club in its statement.

According to the Transportation Safety Board, the tow plane was a Cessna 182 Skylane, and the glider was a Schleicher ASK 21.

Chris Krepski, a spokesperson for the TSB, said investigators completed their examination of the glider wreckage site and the plane at a nearby airfield on Saturday.

He said the TSB continues to investigate the crash.

The Cu Nim club said it will evaluate its operations along with investigators, and that a date to resume hasn't yet been determined.

Black Diamond, Alta. is about 40 kilometres south of Calgary. (Google Maps)

With files from Sarah Lawrynuik

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