North

Air Tindi flight that made emergency landing in N.W.T. had run out of fuel, says airline's president

Air Tindi president Chris Reynolds would not speculate as to why the plane departed without enough fuel, but said the airline is investigating. He said his primary focus is making sure the crew is well-supported.

Investigation by airline and Transportation Safety Board already underway

An Air Tindi Twin Otter flying from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., made an emergency landing near Old Mission Prairie Road, about eight kilometres out of Fort Providence on Nov, 1, 2021 because it ran out of fuel. (Submitted by Justin Lacorne)

An Air Tindi flight from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., made an emergency landing near Fort Providence Monday evening because it ran out of fuel, according to the company's president.

Chris Reynolds said the flight left Yellowknife "with insufficient fuel," causing both engines to fail.

No serious injuries were reported. The five people on board — three passengers and two pilots — were brought to the Fort Providence Medical Centre to be assessed and were released soon afterward. 

Asked how the plane could have taken off without enough fuel, Reynolds said he wouldn't speculate.

"We'll definitely uncover it in the investigation," he said, adding that his company, like the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), has started investigating the incident.

"Transportation Safety Board is very thorough, but frequently we can get to the root cause, at least internally, quite a bit quicker. So we're running that parallel investigation right now," he said.

A file photo of Air Tindi president Chris Reynolds. He said he doesn't how or why a plane would depart without enough fuel but that the airline is investigating. (Sidney Cohen/CBC)

The TSB's John Lee said the agency is working with the RCMP and Air Tindi to gather information, including photographs of the plane and the site, and will interview the crew Tuesday and the passengers at a later date. He said the TSB will also retrieve the cockpit voice recorder and send it to its lab in Ottawa.

"Once we get that information collected and we have a chance to analyze it, we'll have a better idea of the plan going forward," he said.

Emergency response

Reynolds said the airline got a call around 6:30 p.m. Monday night from the flight crew, who said they had a malfunction with the Twin Otter airplane and that they were diverting to Fort Providence.

"We activated our emergency response that time, and basically with the satellite tracker, were able to talk to them and watch what was happening as they headed towards Fort Providence," said Reynolds.

He said it became obvious about three or four minutes before they eventually landed that they weren't going to make it to the runway in Fort Providence so Air Tindi called the RCMP to help.

"We saw where they touched down," Reynolds said. It was about eight kilometres from the community.

He added it was about 15 minutes before they were able to connect again with the crew.

"It's a waiting game, but you're so relieved to hear that everybody is OK," said Reynolds.

'Two feet of water breaking through ice in pitch black'

The crew and three passengers waited by the aircraft for help to arrive.

Cameron Sapp, the co-chief of the Fort Providence volunteer fire department, said they could go toward where the plane landed by vehicle for a few kilometres.

"And then the rest of it was kind of old swampland, broken trees, dealing with like two feet of water, only a couple of inches of ice, breaking through ice, trying to get our way in there," he said, adding they were doing this by foot and on all terrain vehicles (ATVs).

Sapp said it was dark when he got to the site and that RCMP and staff from the territory's Environment and Natural Resources department were already there trying to come up with a plan for how to get the crew and passengers out.

"We came up with a game plan to just walk," said Sapp. "I'm going to have to walk them out. It was fairly hard. This was one person on an ATV rather than doubling up somebody else."

It's a waiting game, but you're so relieved to hear that everybody is OK.- Chris Reynolds, Air Tindi president

He said the group was shocked and a little cold, and got colder as they walked out of the bush.

"They had to walk through water, two feet of water breaking through ice in pitch black," said Sapp, who reassured them the walk wasn't going to be that long and that there was coffee and warmth waiting for them once they got to the vehicles.

"I was very thankful just for the conditions we were in to get to the scene. [It] was quite hectic just to get there. Once we got there and seeing everybody was fine, was quite a relief," he said.

Crew is 'shaken up'

Reynolds said his primary focus is making sure everyone is OK and well supported.

He said the crew was flown to Yellowknife Tuesday morning and is "shaken up."

"You know, most of the time in these scenarios, it doesn't settle in for a little while, sometimes hours, sometimes days, sometimes longer. So our goal is to support and make sure that they have support through our external sources as well."

Reynolds said he doesn't know what shape the plane is in.

"Actually, we haven't really cared, to be honest, up until this point," adding that he was scheduled to go see the plane Tuesday.

"We'll get there when we get there," he said.

Sapp said in a separate interview that the plane looked "fairly intact."

"It did look like a normal plane had landed in a swamp area," he said.

Written by Michel Proulx, with files from Juanita Taylor and Kate Kyle

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