Three people escaped with minor injuries Saturday when a small plane with a student pilot crashed in a densely wooded area about 40 kilometres north of Fredericton.

The twin-engine Piper aircraft, owned by the Moncton Flight College, was carrying two Chinese students and an instructor on a training flight.

A Cormorant helicopter and a Hercules aircraft were sent to the scene from CFB Greenwood, N.S., after authorities picked up signals from a locator beacon and received a report of an overdue local flight.

"We diverted some aircraft and luckily the beacon kept transmitting, so that's how we tracked it down so quickly," said Raymond McFadgen of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax.

"It was in dense trees, so it was hard to find," said McFadgen. "We hoisted two [search and rescue technicians] to the ground and brought out three survivors."

RCMP Sgt. Claude Tremblay said the plane came down in bit of a clearing where there was deep snow "which obviously cushioned their impact and probably saved their lives."

Tremblay said the body of the plane was in one piece but the wings were off the aircraft.

Flight College principal Mike Doiron said all three people were banged up and bruised, but the worst injury may be a broken ankle.

Doiron said the student at the controls was making his first flight in a multi-engine aircraft, but had logged about 140 hours in single-engine planes.