STANLEY - The flying club in Stanley has lost a member whose love of aviation stood out even among fellow pilots.
Kevin Layden, president of Stanley Sport Aviation, says the pilot killed in an ultralight plane crash near the Stanley Airport on May 4 was a beloved member of the club.
“Loved to fly — was at Stanley every chance she got,” he said.
Maryanne Hardman was the pilot killed in the crash. RCMP released her name the morning after the accident.
The 50-year-old woman from the Halifax area had been a member of Stanley Sport Aviation for five years, Layden said.
“One fellow said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to tell my wife,’ and he said ‘I’m just sick to my stomach.’”
Layden was told the downed ultralight plane was discovered by two Stanley Sport Aviation members who took to the sky Sunday upon hearing that Hardman was overdue from a morning flight.
The plane Hardman was piloting landed in a wooded area near a gravel pit close to the airport. Emergency responders were called to the scene around 1 p.m.
It is almost impossible to tell what caused the crash until the investigation concludes, Layden said.
“Even if you were an experienced pilot, and you witnessed a crash, you’d probably get it wrong.”
Layden said he is aware of three fatalities associated with another club that no longer flies out of the airport, but this crash marks a tragic first for Stanley Sport Aviation.
“This is the first casualty in the history of the club.”
Airport manager Bob Poirier said the club has been operating for roughly 46 years without a fatality. Safety regulations are in place, and enforced, at the rural East Hants airport dating back to the Second World War, he added.
Hardman’s death came as a shock to Poirier.
“I’ve flown with her several times,” he said. “She was very meticulous and very safe and an excellent pilot.”
Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) contains documents pertaining to two prior fatal plane crashes at the Stanley Airport.
A pilot operating a privately owned Cirrus glider died after his aircraft crashed into trees to the right of Runway 20 shortly after lift-off in May 2002. In July 2004, a glider pilot operating within the Bluenose Soaring Club was fatally injured after losing control of the aircraft.