Two funeral services have been planned for the Mount Royal aviation instructors who died Feb. 13 when their plane crashed northwest of Cochrane.

Jeff Bird’s memorial will take place tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Bella Concert Hall at MRU. The university communications office indicated the public and media are welcome to attend, with a family spokesperson to be available for interviews after the service.

The funeral for Reyn Johnson will be held Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s Catholic Community, located on 85th Street S.W.

Investigation into crash could take a year

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada along with Work Safe Alberta are continuing their investigations, which according to John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), will take up to a year.

The two instructors were on their usual flight path in the Springbank Airport flight practice area, northwest of Cochrane when the twin-engine Tecnam plummeted to the ground. 

The RCMP said another plane witnessed the accident near the Waiparous area around 5:55 p.m.

Emergency crews were quickly dispatched but neither pilot survived.

Jeff Bird ‘an experienced pilot’

Jeffrey “Jeff” Bird, 35, was a former pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force. According to the MRU communications office, Bird was born in Calgary and graduated from Lord Beaverbrook High School before earning his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Calgary.

Bird  would eventually complete his flight training in Portage La Prairie, Man., Moose Jaw, Sask., and Gagetown, N.B. Bird was awarded his wings in 2009.

MRU president David Docherty indicated Bird had over 1,800 hours of experience and brought his knowledge and expertise to the university where he met Johnson.

“Jeff was an experienced pilot who joined the university as a class 3 flight instructor for the aviation program,” said Docherty.

Before joining the university’s aviation program, Bird was a helicopter pilot with the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron based in Edmonton.

He is survived by his wife and two young children, Celeste and Shane.

Reyn Johnson ‘loved to learn and to encourage that in others’

Reynold “Reyn” Johnson, 65, was a veteran pilot of Air Canada and Jazz.

According to information provided by MRU, Johnson started flying in 1988 with one of Jazz’s predecessor airlines, Time Air. He logged over 20,000 flight hours in more than 15 different airplanes in his career.

Johnson followed his dream of flying jets by training at Lethbridge Flying Club and the Edmonton Flying Club.

His first job was crop-spraying. He then instructed at the Lethbridge Flying Club from 1983 – 1985.

“As a pilot, he took pride in detail, even insisting on ironing his own shirts, not just to look professional, but because he thought that a job worth doing was worth doing right,” said Reyn’s widow Brenda Johnson, in a printed statement released by the university.

During his time at Jazz, he was based in Western Canada and flew the Dash 8, F28 and CRJ aircraft. After 27 years of service, he retired from Jazz as a captain in 2015.

The director of flight operations at Jazz Aviation LP reflected on working with Johnson.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from and fly with Captain Johnson,” said Cal Purves in an emailed statement.

“I truly value the leadership he provided the Jazz pilots and the aviation community at large. [He] contributed to the aviation industry and brought with him invaluable airline experiences.”

Johnson was a flight instructor prior to joining Jazz, and resumed that position at MRU after retiring because he missed flying.

“When you think about Reyn, two things come to mind: He was loving and caring but he was also meticulous and professional,” said his wife in a printed statement.

“Reyn lived life. He loved to learn and to encourage that in others – his friends, family and students.”

Johnson was father to Luc and Maryse, and grandfather to Isaac, Abigail and Jacob.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated Jeffrey Bird was 36 years old. He was 35. The Calgary Journal regrets the error.

This article was edited by Sally Haney who can be reached at

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