Ray Siebring is ready to soar again although he came close to being permanently grounded.
Siebring and a passenger sustained non-life threatening injuries after his Maverick flying car slammed into a tree near Ellison Elementary Friday at 8:45 a.m.
“It was a life-altering event,” said the Kelowna pilot who helped build the craft. “I’m ready to get back in the saddle but I want to find out the cause so I can make it safer.”
Siebring was preparing to land at the Vernon Airport after a demonstration flight when he lost control of the Maverick, which is a car fabricated with an aircraft engine and fabric wing.
“There was either some meteorological event that caused us to make a sharp left turn or it was mechanical error. It started to spiral,” he said.
With altitude dropping, Siebring started looking for places to land.
“I decided on the least populated place and that was the (school) field,” he said.
The craft brushed over the field, clipped a fence and then came to rest up against a tree next to Vernon Creek.
Witnesses provided medical assistance to Siebring and the passenger until paramedics arrived.
“I’m feeling pretty sore and there are a few cuts and bruises. It looks like I was in a bar fight,” he said, adding that his passenger has bruises.
The descending aircraft was visible to a number of people.
“It looked like he was setting up to land and the canopy slumped forward,” said Russ Niles, a writer for Canadian Aviator magazine, who was at the airport and waiting to go for a ride in the flying car.
“It seems like it was a aerodynamic stall. It looked like he tried to power out of it and he almost made it.”
Jennifer Watson was walking her dogs at Clarence Fulton Secondary when she looked up and saw something was wrong.
“I saw it start spinning. I didn’t know where it landed,” she said.
The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
“We are hoping to gather information to determine the cause of the accident,” said Bill Yearwood, TSB regional manager.
“We will inspect the structure and aerodynamic features.”
Siebring says the craft’s safety measures performed as they should, but he will be reviewing onboard recording devices as well as video taken from the ground.
“We’re not giving up on this technology and the dream,” he said.
All Ellison students were inside the school at the time, but counsellors have been made available to students and staff.
“Students will continue to be monitored for signs of emotional impact,” said Don Wilcox, director of student support services with the Vernon School District.
A portion of the school’s sports day had to be postponed because part of the playing field was closed off for the Transportation Safety Board investigation.