North

Russian pilot Sergey Ananov missing in Davis Strait

Dense fog and thick ice are hampering a search for a missing helicopter in the Davis Strait, off the east coast of Baffin Island, flown by a Russian pilot who was attempting to fly solo around the Arctic Circle.

Ananov was attempting to fly solo around the Arctic Circle in a Robinson R22 helicopter

Russian pilot Sergey Ananov was attempting to fly solo around the Arctic Circle in his Robinson R-22 helicopter. (John Van Dusen/CBC )

Search and rescue crews say there is still a chance they can find a small helicopter missing near Baffin Island.

A navigator aboard one of the search aircraft says the pilot may have been able to land on an ice pan. 

"If he was able to land safely on an ice pan we may be able to see him when the cloud deck clears up," said Capt. Derek Prescott.

Dense fog and thick ice have been hampering the search in the Davis Strait, off the east coast of Baffin Island. Although there has been no official confirmation of who is the pilot is, it's thought to be Russian Sergey Ananov, who is trying to become the first person to fly around the Arctic Circle in a small helicopter.

Prescott says thick, low-lying cloud in the area makes it difficult for search crews to see what's on the water. "Eight hundred feet and below is a solid bank of cloud over the ice pan," he said. 

Ananov was travelling in a Robinson R22 helicopter from Iqaluit to Greenland Saturday morning when the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax received information about a marine distress broadcast reporting a missing helicopter.

The JRCC confirms they are looking for a helicopter with the registration call sign D-HDIM, the same aircraft Ananov was spotted refuelling at the Iqaluit airport on Friday. 

Ananov refuelled his helicopter Friday at the Iqaluit airport before taking off Saturday towards Greenland. (John Van Dusen/CBC News)

Two Hercules search and rescue aircraft and a Cormorant helicopter from 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, were dispatched to join the search. A Transport Canada patrol plane and a fishing boat that was in the area are also involved in the search.

Ananov is attempting to fly solo around the Arctic Circle in a helicopter weighing less than one tonne. He was making a stop in Iqaluit before flying to Greenland, a distance of more than 800 kilometres.

Satellite tracking data for Ananov's helicopter shows he left Iqaluit Saturday morning heading east over Baffin Island and then the Davis Strait. The device updated his location every 10 or 20 minutes until Saturday morning. The last update was over open water in the Davis Strait.

A member of Ananov's team posted to a Facebook page about his journey that they contacted Canadian authorities when the satellite tracker reported the helicopter showed no airspeed or altitude. "[W]ith heavy hearts we have to write that unfortunately yesterday we lost contact with Sergey during his flight over Davis Strait," the post reads. 

On June 25, Nav Canada issued a notice to aviators that no aviation fuel was available at the Iqaluit airport until approximately the end of July. Ananov refuelled his helicopter on Friday, but it isn't clear with what.

Maj. Martell Thompson, a spokesperson for the JRCC, said the helicopter was reported overdue at 3:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

A search is underway for a missing helicopter in the Davis Strait, off the east coast of Baffin Island. (Google Maps)

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