Crews wait for weather to clear to search for downed plane
Published Friday, January 25, 2013 12:01PM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 25, 2013 6:27PM MST
New Zealand search and rescue officials are hopeful that the weather will clear enough in the next few hours to allow them to finally reach the site of a plane that went missing in Antarctica on Wednesday.
Three Canadians were on board the Twin Otter owned by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air when the emergency locator transmitter was activated around 10 p.m. local time as the plane travelled from a U.S. research station at the South Pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay.
A plane from the U.S. McMurdo Base flew over the site where the beacon activated on Friday, but heavy cloud and strong winds prevented any visual contact.
The plane was piloted by veteran flyer Bob Heath and there are reports that the co-pilot was 25-year-old Mike Denton. It is believed that the third Canadian on the flight is an engineer.
Search and rescue crews hope to resume the search Saturday morning local time if there is a break in weather.
In a statement released on Thursday, Kenn Borek Air said a second aircraft has been deployed in “a spotter capacity,” flying at a higher altitude over the area where the plane disappeared.
When conditions ease, the plan is to set a launch operations site at a location about 55 kilometres from the beacon site. Two helicopters are on standby, ready to fly in when conditions improve.
“The plan this morning is to send a Twin Otter to load fuel cases along the way for the helicopters when they do leave McMurdo so that they can refuel along the way and make their way to the forward base,” Reynecke said. “We expect that journey to take about four hours.”
Rescue crews have a fix on the plane's location from the beacon, but there has so far been no contact with the crew.
Those who have flown with Bob Heath say that he is an experienced flyer and if anyone knows how to handle this kind of situation it’s him.
“He’s just an overly passionate, charismatic, energetic pilot in northern Canada, and he left this lasting impression on me. Except he wasn't just a pilot, he was a quick friend a tour operator,” said Kyle Thomas.
Official say they are hopeful that they will locate the men alive as they were equipped with survival suits, cold-weather tents and food and water to last up to five days.
(With files from ctvnews.ca)