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In-flight Fright For WEG Drivers


Published: August 10, 2009 11:10 am ET

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For the second straight year, drivers from Ontario heading to New Jersey for Hambletonian Day have had a less than pleasant flight experience.

Last year, Trevor Ritchie and Rick Zeron missed key drives on Hambletonian Day due to a flight delay and diversion. Fast forward one year and a group of eight people - including four drivers - had quite a scare when their plane started to lose control just minutes from landing.

"We were about 15 minutes away from landing when the plane all of a sudden dropped sideways," driver Paul MacDonell told Trot Insider. "The pilots were able to pick it up but we lost about 6,000 feet."

MacDonell was on the plane with three fellow WEG reinsman - Jody Jamieson, Luc Ouellette and Jack Moiseyev.

"It wasn't a good feeling," said Moiseyev, who admittedly is not the best flyer. "There was this loud noise, the front end shot down and headed to the right. People were screaming, the pilots' faces were panicked...they were distressed and shaking trying to level the plane out. In my gut I thought, 'this is it'."

Moiseyev was quick to credit and thank pilot Earl Hopkins and co-pilot Robert White for getting the plane corrected.

"He told us that if he pulled it back too quickly, we would have started doing somersaults and we'd be done. I have to thank the pilots for the job they did."

After regaining control, the pilots were forced to head back to the Toronto Airport as it was most suited for landing the plane.

"We flew back slower than we flew there. The landing was smooth but the breaks didn't work all that well," continued MacDonell. "There was a sudden halt and we got out right on the runway surrounded by emergency crews and fire trucks."

The steering had failed and the brake system had seized. The pilot told Moiseyev that the chances of this happening was a million-to-one shot.

"I almost didn't get back on the second plane," said Moiseyev, "but I saw the second plane was newer and when you're in a big race like [the Hambletonian Oaks] it makes it easier to get back on."

The passengers were escorted from the runway and had to wait about an hour for a second flight. While the flight was scheduled to arrive in plenty of time, the delay did cause Ouellette to miss his drive in the Merrie Annabelle and almost caused Jamieson to miss his Mistletoe Shalee mount on Shes A Fan.

"Jody was picked up by a friend of Luc's, who drove him right into the paddock for his drive," said MacDonell.

Moiseyev (driving Raising Rachel) and MacDonell (aboard Elusive Desire) finished two-three behind Broadway Schooner in the Hambletonian Oaks, with a head separating the top three finishers.

Despite not winning with the drive that had MacDonell on the plane to New Jersey, he reflected on the experience with balance and clarity.

"When you stop to think about it after, we're all very lucky."

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