June, 1977, Canadian Aviation
by Captain Peter Smith
A Twin Otter was down 100 miles west of Repulse Bay, Northwest Territories, almost 1,400 miles from our RCAF squadron base at Edmonton. On November 21, the RCAF were requested to assist in the rescue, and we deployed a CH-147 to Churchill, Manitoba. A second crew was dispatched to meet the CH-147 at Churchill to continue the long flight to the crash site.
The CH-147 reached Churchill at 14:30 on the afternoon of the 22nd and left immediately with our new crew. We had a full fuel load including an extra 500-gallon internal fuel bladder. There are very few weather stations north of Churchill, and the winds were stronger than we anticipated. We were forced to land at night in Whale Cove, a small Inuit community on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay. We topped off our tanks with the bladder, and left about an hour later for Rankin.
At Rankin, we filled our fuel tanks and the bladder, and took on six 45-gallon fuel drums. It was still night, and after Rankin there were no navigation aids in the area. The winds were very strong and the outside air temperature was -35° C. We were navigating strictly by time and distance under Instrument Flying conditions, with no visible horizon, and with a blanket of stratus clouds and blowing snow below.
Finally, with the help of vectors from Pelly Bay radar station, we contacted the Para Rescue people who had arrived earlier at the crash site. We could not see their flashlight beam, and only after they set one of the Otter’s magnesium wheels on fire could we anticipate landing. The snow and the stratus clouds were so disorienting that we had to make three approaches before landing; the landing was firm as we were enveloped by a snowcloud.
We loaded the survivors, the Para Rescue people, and equipment into our CH-147 in about an hour while refueling our craft from the bladder. We did an instrument takeoff and climbed to 6,000 feet when Pelly Bay radar was able to give us vectors to Repulse Bay, about 100 miles east.
We landed at Repulse Bay at 03:45 on the morning of the 23rd, dropped off the survivors, and departed for Churchill. At 19:30 that night, our mission complete, we arrived back at Churchill.
This article originally appeared in the June, 1977 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.