417 Squadron rescues three men from remote Saskatchewan location


Photo: Jeff Gaye


A 417 Squadron Griffon helicopter was sent to Lansdowne Lake in northern Saskatchewan last Tuesday.
Photo: Submitted

Jeff Gaye

A CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 417 Squadron was sent to Lansdowne Lake in northern Saskatchewan last Tuesday to rescue three men.

The men had spent a weekend at their cabin and were taxiing their Cessna 185 on the lake ice Monday morning to leave for home. While they were taxiing, the left main landing gear dropped into a hole in the ice. They managed to leave the plane and return to their cabin. The plane sank, with all their communications devices still aboard.

When they were 24 hours overdue in Prince Albert, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre was alerted.

“Because of the flight itinerary system that Nav Canada uses, if you file a flight plan and you’re one hour overdue the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre [JRCC] will be alerted. But if you’re on a flight itinerary it takes 24 hours,” said Capt James Hill, pilot of the 417 Squadron Griffon that flew the rescue mission.

“So 24 hours and 20 minutes after they should have landed in Prince Albert we got a phone call from JRCC saying there was an overdue aircraft. We were asked [to assist] about 30 minutes later, and we took off.”

The crew stopped to refuel in Buffalo Narrows. En route from Buffalo Narrows to Lansdowne Lake they had to deal with strong winds, which used up more fuel than usual. They only had enough fuel for them to spend 15 or 20 minutes on scene.

Meanwhile, a 435 Squadron CC-130 Hercules aircraft was flying over the scene. They dropped a radio to the stranded men, and were able to tell them the helicopter was on its way.

“When we went in the three survivors had already cut out a landing zone for us,” Capt Hill said. “It was difficult conditions to get the helicopter into the area, but we were able to pick up the guys and take them back to Buffalo Narrows.”

Capt Hill said the men were “well-prepared and well-provisioned.”

“They made a plan, they made a good signal out on the ice telling us they were okay,” he said. “This is an example of people who were planning ahead and making our jobs easy.”