Forty years of flying experience brings happy ending to plane crash saga
It started as a day trip for a pilot and his two passengers Sunday morning.
81-year-old Vern Hannah knew the flight from Pitt Meadows to Whistler very well, having flown it many times.
But hours later, the search effort began as the flight was hours overdue.
This is where pilot Vern Hannah wound up landing his plane, on a glacier.
Just hours earlier, Hannah and his passengers were on route to Whistler from Pitt Meadows.
It was a routine flight, but he took a wrong turn and before he knew it, they were all in trouble.
“We were in the valley, it was too late to turn back. And all we could do is try and out climb the valley. So we flew up the valley, but we kept losing air speed. But there was a terrific downdraft that kept us from climbing. But we kept going down right close to the rocks.”
One of his passengers, Peter Jedynakiewicz, realized they were in trouble.
“When it’s so much draft up and down, up and down. Shaking left right. No time to talk.”
The plane is caught in a severe downdraft, created by the steep terrain in Callahan Lake Provincial Park.
The powerful winds forcing the plane down as yet another rock face approached.
“We had no time. It was an absolute emergency. As soon as I realized that we were in downdraft, the air was coming down, pushing us down, and I could not climb because at full power, yet I had rocks in front of me. So I had to barely climb over at stall speed on the rocks.”
Hannah managed to land the plane in the snow on top of a glacier.
“Yeah, but they’ve got to know we are here.”
This cell phone video shows just how close the plane is to a crevasse.
The men carefully navigate around the plane.
“To the south, this direction. Follow the river.”
But first they write a note on the plane for any searchers who may find it.
“It was very difficult to go. You had to climb the rocks and down into the valley along the river, just raging along the side. Then over all these rocks to get out to the road. I very quickly realized that I wasn’t going to make it.”
A search launched Sunday evening when the plane didn’t return to Pitt Meadows.
On Monday morning, a snowmobiler reported seeing what he thought was an old wreck.
CFB Comox search and rescue techs found the plane, then the three men.
“We both landed at the same time the helicopters came in.”
“What did you say to him?”
“We hugged. We hugged.”