'Damn good pilot' hailed in safe Yellowknife plane crash landing

A Buffalo Airways DC-3 made a hard landing at the Yellowknife airport after the plane's right engine caught fire shortly after takeoff.

No injuries reported on Buffalo Airways flight

A Buffalo Airways DC-3 made a hard landing Monday at the Yellowknife airport. (CBC)

A Buffalo Airways DC-3 made a hard landing Monday at the Yellowknife airport after its right engine burst into flames, 30 seconds after take-off.

None of the 21 passengers and three crew on board the flight was injured.

The plane, which was a scheduled flight from Yellowknife to Hay River, N.W.T., circled back to return to the airport.

One passenger said it just missed a set of hydro wires and plowed through treetops trying to make it back to the runway.

David Connelly, one of 21 passengers on the 5 p.m. flight, said it was like a scene right out of a movie.

A Buffalo Airways DC-3 is sprayed by a Yellowknife airport fire truck after landing on its belly short of the runway Monday. (photo courtesy of David Connelly)

"Honest to God, we were cutting the trees," he said.

"I mean he was able to take the tops off a few trees and fly it into a clear field. Had we hit the trees, had we gone totally into the trees, it would've been game over and he just missed the wires by inches. Some great force was with us; well, a damn good pilot but I'll give it a damn good pilot and a good force."

The plane didn't quite make it and landed hard on its belly in a ditch about a hundred metres from the runway, with its landing gear still up.

The owner of the Second World War-era plane says it was built to endure some tough landings and his pilots did some quick thinking.

"Nobody got hurt. Nobody got shook up. They said it was quite smooth other than the very end; there was a little bit of a bump," said Joe McBryan.

"I think the crew did a marvelous job under the circumstances. Mechanical problems do happen and it’s how you react to it. I think they reacted very well to it."

A three-person team from the Transportation Safety Board are on the scene investigating the plane now. "Over the next few days the team will be conducting those interviews and begin the mechanical examination of the aircraft," says John Lee, the TSB's western regional manager

The team will also collect files from the company pertaining to the maintenance of the aircraft and the training files for the flight crew, Lee told CBC News.