A pilot and two passengers walked away dehydrated but otherwise unharmed from a single-engine plane that was forced to make an emergency landing Sunday on a glacier northwest of Callahan Lake near Pemberton.
The Beechcraft 23 Musketeer plane was overdue Sunday night following a flight from Pitt Meadows to Pemberton, triggering an overnight search involving military aircraft. The overnight search that continued into Monday, came up empty.
But luck and social media made this a happy ending.
“They’re all back at home this evening,” Capt. Gregory Clarke of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, said Monday evening.
If it wasn’t for a snowmobiler who spotted the intact plane on Sunday, it might have taken a couple more days before the plane was found, Clarke said.
The snowmobiler was unaware the plane was missing, and luckily snapped a photo that was then shared via social media.
Eventually, that information found its way to the right people, and the search area was shifted late Monday afternoon.
Around 5:30 p.m., a military plane, with the assistance of a private airplane, was able to locate the missing plane, which survived the landing in one piece.
But the plane was actually empty, although a note was left behind, and the pilot and two passengers were found a few miles away walking down the valley. They were scooped up by a helicopter, and after being checked over by doctors, were sent home.
The plane went down about 37 kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway, he said.
“They were dehydrated but essentially no worse for wear,” Clarke said.
This was a great outcome, he said, but noted the importance of the snowmobiler’s photo.
The plane actually landed outside the search area, which would have slowly widened as the search continued in the days ahead.
Clarke said the plane didn’t file a flight plan, which would have detailed the flight route, and it also didn’t have an emergency locator beacon, which would have activated on a jarring impact.
There was no cellular service in the area, meaning cell phones would have been useless.
And the pilot didn’t have a satellite phone.
So search crews focused their efforts on a logical flight route, Clarke said.
Asked how the trio were dressed, considering the plane was found at 5,000 feet, and they spent the night in the cold weather, Clarke said he believes they were wearing some “warmer clothes.”
Clarke said details about what triggered the forced landing, and where the trio are from, are not being released at this time.
But the investigation is now in the hands of the Transportation Safety Board and the RCMP.