2 min read

In 1981, I was living in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, which is north of the 60th parallel, working as a new bush pilot. I was flying south to a very small community on Trout Lake on Easter Sunday. The flight service lady informed me that they were still looking for a twin engine pilot who went missing on Good Friday. Being religious, she was convinced that he would be found today, on Easter Sunday, and that I needed to look for him.

We were nowhere near the search area that was far off to the east, but I informed my two passengers (the other two “passengers” were fuel drums) that we would be flying low level to look for a missing plane. I was flying a twin engine Britten-Norman Islander with good cockpit visibility, and although I wasn’t convinced I would see him, the least I could do was look.


The joys of bush flying in the Arctic.

As I approached the very large and frozen lake, far out in the centre was what looked like a large boulder sticking through the ice. I circled over to it and as I approached, I could see a debris field leading up to a ball of metal at the end.

Just as I decided that no one could have survived, I saw a man standing and waving! I wasn’t able to land, so I attempted to radio for help. As luck would have it, an Okanagan helicopter was on approach to the same town and quickly diverted to my location. In my excitement as I circled, I very nearly joined my new friend in what was literally a white out with very little ground reference, as I had become fixated on the man waving and I was slowly descending without realizing it.

I immediately climbed until I was able to contact Flight Service. She was very excited as I reported the crash site to her. I then continued to climb and was able to contact search and rescue on 121.5. A military Twin Otter was searching far to our east but acknowledged my call.

By now the local helicopter had picked up our pilot and we met on the ice strip.

I had just loaded him into my quickly unloaded aircraft and was about to take him home with me when the SAR Twin Otter landed with a roar of reverse thrust.

I had really wanted him to meet the flight service operator but he was now in much better hands and heading to a hospital instead of a clinic.

There was never any ELT signal and it is doubtful that the wreckage would have ever been found had it been the summer and being so far off course. He was only VFR rated and it appeared that he had lost visual reference while being out over a large, snow-covered lake at low altitude.

Erik Vogel
Latest posts by Erik Vogel (see all)
9 replies
    • Erik Vogel V3A 2V3
      Erik Vogel V3A 2V3 says:

      I’d have to agree,
      It’s hard to make a story like that up.
      An accident is usually a long chain of events. This too was a chain of events started by her.

  1. Low Wings
    Low Wings says:

    Erik: The forces of nature destroyed the hapless pilot’s airplane as often occurs when the boundaries of good practice are violated, but somehow the pilot was left alive.

    It seems like his story of survival for two days in that environment until you happened on the scene would be a harrowing tale of interest all by itself!

      • Don Helms
        Don Helms says:

        Just finished Carol Sheben’s book. Thanks for making this book possible. I’ve been flying for almost 50 years and many times I wonder how close I came to a story like yours.

        • Erik
          Erik says:

          Thanks Don, I’ve heard from many over the years with the same sentiments. Not everyone faced the same issues. My Dad didn’t understand but his First officers told him their horror stories and it helped.

  2. Kelby Shifflett
    Kelby Shifflett says:

    Mr. Vogel,

    My name is SSG Shifflett, I am a UH-60 crewchief in the Army National Guard in Oklahoma. I read the book “Into the Abyss” and was fascinated by your story. Every year in February, we have an event called “Safety Stand Down” were we cease all aviation operations to focus on safety. I would love to potentially have you as a guest speaker in the future if you are willing. My email is [email protected]. Hope to hear from you.


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