Al McBain, the brother of Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers, was the pilot of the float plane that crashed last week. He and three people died during the crash off northern Vancouver Island that also injured five others. (Nathalie Chambers/Facebook).

Pilot in fatal crash had passion for flying inspired by his father

‘It was fitting my dad’s former squadron did the rescue,’ says sister

A Saanich councillor is mourning one of her older brothers, who died in a float plane crash that also claimed three other lives.

“I am very extremely devastated and heartbroken to announce the death of my dear brother Al McBain,” wrote Coun. Nathalie Chambers on her Facebook page. “I love you.”

Online tributes have identified McBain, who celebrated his 58th birthday on July 2, as the pilot of the float plane that crashed in the area of Addenbroke Island, about 100 kilometres from the northern end of Vancouver Island on July 26. The chartered Cessna 208 operated by Seair Seaplanes carried nine people and was heading towards Calvert Island, an uninhabited island about 82 kilometres of north of Port Hardy.

Chambers said her brother’s passion for flying stems from their dad, Major James McBain, who was a pilot with 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of 19 Wing Comox — the very forces that assisted the recovery and rescue mission. “It was fitting my dad’s former squadron did the rescue,” she said.

Chambers said it was her dad who introduced both of her brothers into the world of aviation. “My dad was my brother’s hero and he was born to fly,” she said. “We grew up as military kids near airports and Al used to sit on my dad’s knee and watch landings and take off.”

Chambers described her brother as an extreme nature lover, who was mentally tough, meticulous and perfectionist. “Safety was his first thought,” she said.

RELATED: Four killed in float plane crash near Port Hardy

Federal investigators have since arrived on the site of the crash.

Seair Seaplanes said in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon that the company is continuing to work with authorities in any way that is helpful to the investigation.

“The safety of our passengers is our top priority and as such, we are also undertaking additional comprehensive safety measures to ensure that our aircraft meet the highest standards set out by Transport Canada,” it read. “We have now resumed our scheduled flights and will continue to get people and supplies to and from the remote areas we serve.”

Tributes on Facebook describe McBain as a passionate pilot, who cared about his passengers.

“I’ll always remember Al’s grinning welcome, his professionalism, impeccable appearance and his genuine interest when he asked what you were up to lately,” wrote Bill Gillies.

“You died doing what you loved,” wrote Rob Hilditch. “Your skills certainly saved the [five] survivors. You will be missed greatly.”

Chambers’ council colleagues, meanwhile, are rallying to her side.

“So sorry to hear this Nathalie,” wrote Coun. Zac de Vries. “I’m wishing you and your family strength and love in this devastating time! My sincere condolences!”

“Sincerest condolences to you and your family,” said Coun. Colin Plant.


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