Air Tindi plane's pilot and passengers safe after landing on ice

All six people who were on board an Air Tindi plane forced to land on Great Slave Lake this morning are safe after being airlifted by helicopter to Yellowknife.

Flight to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., turned back, forced to land on Great Slave Lake

Yellowknife and Behchoko RCMP headed to the Boundary Creek area on N.W.T. Highway 3 as part of the emergency response to the Air Tindi plane that landed on Great Slave Lake Thursday morning. (Mitch Wiles/CBC)

All six people who were on board an Air Tindi plane forced to land on Great Slave Lake Thursday morning are safe after being airlifted by helicopter to Yellowknife.

Air Tindi initially said seven people were on board the flight, but now says there were five passengers and a pilot.

The Cessna 208 Caravan was on its way from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson.

A preliminary report to Transport Canada said the plane took off at 6:44 a.m. for Fort Simpson. About 22 minutes later the pilot requested clearance to return to Yellowknife due to icing. About 13 minutes later the pilot then made a mayday distress call due to severe icing and landed about a minute after that. 

The pilot contacted the airline at 7:21 a.m. local time to say the plane had landed safely with no major injuries. 

"Under very difficult weather conditions, the Caravan pilot was able to land the aircraft safely and evacuate the passengers," Air Tindi said in a news release.​

The plane landed on the ice of Great Slave Lake, about 10-12 kilometres from kilometre 308 on N.W.T. Highway 3.

Emergency vehicles from Yellowknife towing snowmobiles and ATVS headed northwest along the highway and gathered at Boundary Creek. An RCMP spokesperson said emergency responders, fire and ambulance as well as Stanton Territorial Hospital were placed on standby.

Once the weather cleared, three helicopters from Air Tindi's sister company Great Slave Helicopters arrived at the landing site at around 11:30 a.m. to pick up the pilot and passengers. RCMP say the pilot and passengers had established a campfire while awaiting rescue. 

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules with search and rescue technicians on board had been dispatched from Winnipeg, but local authorities reached the plane first. The Hercules returned to Winnipeg without landing.

In its news release, Air Tindi thanked the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, Stanton Territorial Hospital and the team at Great Slave Helicopters for their quick response.

The Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to Yellowknife to investigate. Air Tindi says there will also be an internal investigation.

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With files from The Canadian Press