Pilot escapes injury after plane submerges in Skaha Lake

Wet but otherwise unhurt, Larry Taylor stood on the shoreline surveying his partially submerged airplane resting nose first in Skaha Lake near Airport beach.

Penticton pilot Larry Taylor (front) rides in the bow of the Penticton Fire Rescue Zodiac with firefighters Brent Ryll (survival suit) and Lt. Graham Gowe (left) as his float plane sits nose-first in the waters of Skaha Lake Saturday.

Wet but otherwise unhurt, Larry Taylor stood on the shoreline surveying his partially submerged airplane resting nose first in Skaha Lake near Airport beach.

“Oh, I’m fine but I’ve had better days, I can tell you that,” said Taylor, who a short time earlier had been plucked from the airplane’s wing struts by Penticton firefighters in the Zodiac rescue boat.

The pilot of 34 years and owner of Penticton Home Brew had only been on the water for a few minutes Saturday morning when the problems began.

“One of the things was they (floats) were not as big as they were supposed to be for the aircraft so I had very little freeboard,” said Taylor, who made a successful forced landing in the same aircraft on the Penticton Indian Reserve several years ago after experiencing engine problems. “So it looked like taxiing was actually putting water in the floats and as soon as I started to drive around a little bit it didn’t take long and down she went.

“Those are home-built floats and they’re third hand. I don’t know the history, I don’t know the person who built them, so  what I do is everything to remove the possibility of what happened happening, however it didn’t.”

The veteran pilot, however, is still a little confused about all the commotion.

“It was over very quickly. We started at 9:30 a.m. to move it (aircraft) across the beach and put it in the water, and at 10:30 a.m. I was sitting in the ambulance with the paramedic, guys trying to do their job, and me saying: ‘Look it went over at  two-and-a-half miles an hour, let me save my airplane,’” said Taylor. “It’s called testing, and sometimes when you experiment like that it doesn’t work.”

The pilot added he wasn’t worried at anytime for his own safety.

“No it didn’t scare me. At the time you don’t have time to get scared and it went over so slow,” he said. “All I remember thinking is ‘I’ve got a lot of work to do.’”

Despite the position of the home-built, single-engine aircraft with water up to the cockpit and the tail section sticking straight out of the lake, he made his escape by simply opening the door and pulling himself out.

Initial indications so far is there was little if any damage to the plane.

Among those who witnessed the incident was Taylor’s daughter Tera Lund, who along with some others had helped him get the aircraft into the water.

“Of course I’m happy with the way things turned out but he didn’t appear to be in any danger, it happened so slowly,” said Lund, who has flown with her father in the past. “It’s kind of scary when you think about what could have happened, but it worked out better than it might have.”

She also had high praise for the “amazingly quick” response time of Penticton Fire Rescue crews in getting to the scene by boat.

As well, Lund was grateful to a passerby who pulled his truck onto the beach and launched a small aluminum fishing boat just as firefighters arrived.

“He’s a great citizen for doing that,” she said.

The sight of the airplane sticking out of the water coupled with the line of emergency vehicles — lights flashing — blocking a portion of the eastbound slow lane of Highway 97 did cause some traffic congestion, however, it quickly cleared.

The plane was eventually pulled to shore by a tow truck and returned to the Penticton Airport.

Including Saturday’s incident, Taylor has now been involved in five mishaps involving planes, including twice as a passenger, however, has not suffered as much as a scratch.

Despite those numbers, if everything is all right from a mechanical standpoint he hopes to be back in the skies in as little as a couple of weeks.

“The reason people get scared is they are dwelling on what could have happened,” said the pilot. “Well it’s over, you’re OK. It doesn’t matter what could have happened.”