Wings Magazine

Search crews looking for missing plane in Antarctica

Jan. 23, 2013, Antarctica - Rescuers are searching for three Canadians aboard an airplane that's presumed to have gone down in Antarctica.

January 23, 2013  By The Canadian Press

There's no information on the fate of the passengers and crew aboard the ski-equipped Twin Otter, owned by Kenn Borek Air.

"We don't know exactly what's happening other than that the beacon is still transmitting,'' said Capt. Jean Houde of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., which has been in touch with the New Zealand authorities in charge of the search.

"We don't know the condition of the people on board.''

Signals were received from the plane's emergency locator beacon late Tuesday night. Houde said the beacon's signal is right on the plane's scheduled flight path, which was to have taken it from the South Pole to an Italian base in Terra Nova Bay.


The region is in New Zealand's area of responsibility and that country's Rescue Co-ordination Centre is organizing the search. U.S. authorities at McMurdo Station, an American research station, are also involved.

A U.S. C-130 flew over the source of the locator beacon's signal, but was unable to spot the plane due to heavy, low cloud, Houde said.

"Because of really bad weather conditions, they have not been able to have any visual on the aircraft. Nor were they able to establish any communications.''

The signal is coming from the north end of Antarctica's Queen Alexandra range, and the terrain is considered mountainous.

A second search plane is en route, Houde said.

"A DC-3 was being sent with skis with some alpine climbers with spotters, food, equipment, shelter,'' he said. "Their hopes are to get a break in the weather, fly above the area where the signal is coming from and see something through.''

That plane is to be joined in the search by a helicopter from New Zealand's Scott Base, a research station located near McMurdo.

A joint New Zealand-U.S. field team will be aboard the helicopter.

Search conditions in the area are considered poor, with heavy cloud cover and increasing winds.

Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air is experienced in Antarctic aviation and has been in operation since 1970.

The company, also a fixture in Canada's North, routinely sends planes to the frozen continent. In 2001, its pilots and planes were involved in the daring rescue of an ailing American doctor from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.


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