Rescuers searching for a downed Air Tindi aircraft were wading through deep snow in a bid to reach its possible location as night fell on Wednesday.
The plane, a King Air 200, and its two pilots disappeared between 9am and 9:30am on Wednesday morning. The aircraft has still not been definitively located.
Search and rescue teams are trying to reach a “site of interest” – which may or may not be the plane – detected earlier in the afternoon near Behchokǫ̀ by the crew of a Hercules aircraft.
Officials at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario, say they cannot be sure the site actually contains the missing aircraft until those teams reach it and report back.
Technicians have parachuted in to the vicinity of the site and are equipped with overnight arctic kits to help them stay warm and safe as they cover the remaining ground.
As of 9:30pm on Wednesday, neither Air Tindi nor the Trenton command centre had any new information regarding the plane or its crew.
The next update is not now expected until first light on Thursday.
“The CC-130 Hercules is overhead and the search and rescue technicians are still moving towards the site, but the snow is reported to be very deep,” said Jennifer Jones, a Royal Canadian Air Force spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Trenton command centre.
Jones said Canadian Rangers trying to reach the site from Behchokǫ̀ were also being held up by snow.
“They will keep moving towards the suspected site under illumination from the CC-130 overhead, but we likely won’t have another update until the morning,” she said.
The King Air 200 had been heading from Yellowknife to Whatì – which is north-west of Behchokǫ̀ – with no passengers on board when it lost contact.
All Air Tindi flights remain suspended. The airline will discuss later on Wednesday whether other services will be able to resume on Thursday.
“We’re concerned about the pilots very much and are trying to make sure all of our people are being kept informed,” Al Martin, the president of Air Tindi, said earlier.
What exactly happened to the aircraft is unclear. Conditions in the area were poor on Wednesday, with temperatures below -20C and blowing snow affecting visibility.
The airline said the Transportation Safety Board and the local community government had been notified, as had the pilots’ next of kin.
This is the first significant incident involving an Air Tindi flight since November 2014, when all on board survived an emergency landing on Great Slave Lake performed by an Air Tindi plane heading from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson.
Three years earlier, a pilot and a passenger were killed when an Air Tindi flight came down 200 km east of Yellowknife.