Monday, September 1, 2014

Weather break to help in search for downed plane

A forecasted break in the weather could be the best opportunity for searchers to find a group of Canadians missing in Antarctica.
Steve Rendle of New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre said skies were expected to clear in the area Saturday morning local time (Friday afternoon in Alberta), which could allow rescue teams to fly over where the plane owned by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air is believed to have gone down.

The Twin Otter began transmitting signals from its emergency locator beacon early Wednesday. Aircraft tried twice to spot it in the mountainous area where it went down but failed due to heavy, low cloud.
If the weather clears, Rendle said they hope to establish a base of operations at a runway and fuel depot located at the Beardmore Glacier, about 50 km from the presumed crash site.
From there, helicopters would be dispatched to search for the craft.
Rendle said the signal from the locator beacon no longer is being received.
“But that’s to be expected as the battery life is limited,” he explained, adding it’s not a problem as rescue teams have a fix on the beacon’s co-ordinates.
Rendle wouldn’t say if it’s a concern that there have been no communications with the plane’s crew, saying there are a number of scenarios that could explain the silence.
“But we don’t speculate on what we haven’t been able to see,” he stressed.
“There’s no point in it.”
Those who know the pilot of the downed craft say that if anyone would know how to get through, it would be Bob Heath.
“He’s a bit of a living legend up [north],” said friend and fellow pilot Sebastien Seykora.
“He’s been flying down there for at least a decade.
“If somebody had a question about how to do things, especially about going down there, he would be the guy they would ask.”
The Twin Otter was well-equipped with survival equipment, including mountain tents and supplies which could last five days.
The missing plane’s signal came from the north end of Antarctica’s Queen Alexandra range—about halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station.
The site is roughly four hours by helicopter from an American base at McMurdo Station.
It’s a two-hour flight with a DC-3.

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