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Vern Hannah is humble but the 81 year old pilot is getting credit for saving three lives.

81-year-old pilot makes emergency landing on glacier

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 8, 2016, 11:24 AM - A pilot and his two passengers are safe after a wrong turn forced the trio to make an emergency landing on a glacier.

Vern Hannah, 81, was flying his single-engine Beechcraft plane from Pitt Meadows to Whistler in British Columbia, along with two passengers, when they took a turn down the wrong valley Sunday.

"It was too late to turn back, so all we could do was try and out climb the valley, so we flew up the valley," Hannah told the CBC Tuesday. "But we kept losing airspeed and there was a terrific downdraft that kept us from climbing...pretty soon we were right close to the rocks."

In an interview with the broadcaster, highlights of which are above, Hannah and one of the passengers, Zbigniew Jedynakiewicz, whom Hannah was teaching to fly, describe how badly the mishap could have ended.

Pemberton Icefields

However, Hannah was skilled enough to keep the plane climbing without stalling, long enough for them to reach the nearby Pemberton Icefield glacier, where Hannah managed to put the plane down safely.

"It was a soft landing, soft like on a pillow. Believe me," Jedynakiewicz said.

That wasn't the end of the ordeal, however. After crawling off the glacier on their hands and knees to avoid crevasses, and once in the woods nearby, the three tried to hike back to civilization, but were forced to spend the night in the forest. 

Luckily, the trio had been reported missing when the plane failed to arrive on schedule, and a rescue helicopter spotted them on Monday.

Bill Yearwood, an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board, told the CBC that Hannah did make a few missteps, beginning with not filing a flight plan before taking off.

"Leaving a good itinerary ... pilots need to do that. And having a functioning emergency locater transmitter would have allowed for a quick rescue, probably 24 hours before it actually occurred. So it could have been better," Yearwood told the CBC.

For Hannah's part, he told the broadcaster he was "probably" done with flying.


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