Pilot dies at Oshawa air show

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Postby xgary » Sun Jun 26, 2005 5:31 am

Pilot dies at Oshawa air show
Close friend was flying nearby before ultralight plane crashed


A highly experienced pilot — and a well-liked man in the aviation community — died in a crash yesterday at the Canadian Aviation Expo in Oshawa, the country's largest aviation show.

Doug Rogerson was in the cockpit of his beloved SeaRey, a plane that had brought him endless joy since he purchased it in October 2002. The Air Canada pilot, who lived near Shelburne, was 58.

"I'm just devastated," said his close friend and fellow SeaRey owner, John Dunlop. "Doug has been my friend and my buddy for 15 years. He's lived flying like I have and we shared our dream together. And it's ended in such a tragedy today."

The accident occurred at about 1:40 p.m., as Rogerson and Dunlop were preparing for a fly-by at the air show. Dunlop, a retired Air Canada pilot who has logged hundreds of flights with his own SeaRey, had no indication anything was amiss.

"He was flying on my wing when it happened. I wasn't even aware that he'd left my side until I learned of the accident," Dunlop said last night while heading back to Shelburne to see Rogerson's widow and children.

"My family is with me and they're devastated, too."

Few details about the cause of the accident were available yesterday. Witnesses said the two ultralights took off together and were heading west when Rogerson's aircraft appeared to have trouble. It banked to the left, then the right, before going nose-down into a large pile of gravel next to the foundation of a housing complex.

A crowd quickly gathered.

"I had my hands on that plane two hours before it crashed," said Sandra Freer of Whitby. "The plane was on the tarmac and you could go look at it."

At this early stage of the investigation, police had little information they were able to share.

"Witnesses reported the plane narrowly missed some homes in the area as it went down and came to rest on the dugout area of the home under construction," said Sgt. Paul McCurbin of Durham Region police.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada at 905-771-7690. Organizers of the Canadian Aviation Expo could not be reached for comment.

Just two days earlier, Rogerson spoke with the Toronto Star about his love for the aircraft, known by many as "The Orca Rey" because it was painted like a killer whale. He purchased the ultralight, which many build as a kit, as a used aircraft in Seattle.

With an infectious, friendly smile, he described the wonders the plane had brought him, especially on a trip earlier this year with Dunlop and Rogerson's son, who is also a pilot.

"We were down in Florida this spring. We flew right down the coast of Florida at 50 to 100 feet up," he said. "We saw wild pigs, even wild horses in northern Florida. My son is also a pilot ... so it was kind of fun flying with him."

As a career pilot, Rogerson was a stickler for details and safety. His craft was gleaming and the cockpit spotless. A pre-flight checklist, which he went over every time he took the aircraft up, was mounted on the instrument panel.

Though ultralight aircraft have grown safer over the years — and the SeaRey has an excellent reputation and a wide following — accidents still happen. A scan of Transport Canada's accident reports indicates that most ultralight crashes occur when the pilot is either not licensed to fly, has modified the aircraft, or is attempting manoeuvres for which the craft was not designed.

Given Rogerson's background and reputation, it would be surprising if the investigation determines that pilot error was a factor.

On calm summer evenings, Rogerson was particularly fond of taking his 80-horsepower SeaRey to Bellwood Lake. He was also looking forward to an annual "gaggle" of SeaRey enthusiasts that gathers each year on Georgian Bay. If that gathering goes ahead this summer, you can bet there will be some wonderful stories about Rogerson — and more than a few tears.

"Doug was a genuine guy and the best friend a guy could ever have," said Dunlop, who distributes SeaRey kits in Canada.

You can find pictures of Doug Rogerson, flying his distinctive and well-travelled Orca Rey, on the photo gallery at SEARAY SITE
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