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Updated: Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:01:26 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Antarctica search for 3 Canadians held up by weather

Antarctica search for 3 Canadians held up by weather

Efforts to find a Twin Otter aircraft missing in Antarctica with three Canadians on board remain on hold due to poor weather, a rescue official in New Zealand said this morning.

Michael Flyger, a spokesman with New Zealand's Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which is handling the search, told CBC's Heather Hiscox shortly before 6:30 a.m. ET that an updated weather report for the area will be issued in about five to six hours.

"Fingers crossed that we get some good news and we can get underway — get some ground teams in there as quickly as possible," he said.

The pilot of the missing aircraft has been identified by his wife, Lucy, as Bob Heath from Inuvik, N.W.T.

Jim Pearce, a retired pilot, said Heath was a very experienced aviator.

"He is probably one of the most experienced Antarctic pilots in the world today," Pearce said.

The operator of the Twin Otter, Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air, has not confirmed the names of those aboard the aircraft.

The missing plane had been flying from the South Pole to an Italian base in Antarctica's Terra Nova Bay.

- Antarctica winds halt search for 3 missing Canadians

An emergency beacon from the Twin Otter was activated around 10 p.m. local time Tuesday. New Zealand rescuers said the signal came from the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range, roughly 680 kilometres each way way between the South Pole and McMurdo Station, a U.S. research facility in Antarctica

No signal from beacon

Flyger said rescuers are no longer receiving a signal from the beacon, but they have an excellent fix on its position.

"The location itself is not a problem at all," Flyger said. "We have 100 per cent confidence we know exactly where they are."

He said the battery in the beacon has likely gone flat, as it's only meant to last about 24 hours.

Pearce said it is possible the crew of the missing plane may have turned the beacon off to preserve its battery, in order to turn it back on when the weather improves.

Earlier rescue efforts were thwarted by the poor weather. A DC-3 spent about six hours circling the area, hoping to make visual contact and drop a satellite phone to the missing crew. However, poor visibility and high winds forced the DC-3 to return to McMurdo Station. Weather conditions were said to include solid cloud, heavy snow and winds up to 170 km/h.

Flyger said two heliicopters and some aircraft are on standby at McMurdo Station to pick up the search when the weather clears.

He said it would take about four hours of flying time to get helicopters to the area, as they need to refuel along the way. The helicopters would carry search-and-rescue teams equipped with mountain survival gear.

With files from The Canadian Press

External Links

McMurdo Station webcam
Kenn Borek Air Ltd.

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