A Cessna 337 Skymaster on a transatlantic ferry flight made a forced landing on an ice floe near remote Baffin Island on Dec. 7, and the two pilots survived 18 hours in sub-zero temperatures by walking.
The twin-engine, centerline-thrust airplane reportedly lost power in both engines and went down on an ice floe. But the ice was less than a foot thick, and the plane broke through and sank, taking the pilots’ life raft and survival gear with it.
With no food, shelter, or fuel for a fire, pilots Oliver Edwards and Troels Hansen, who both live in Sweden, paced through the night as temperatures dropped to minus 20 C and into the next day before a shrimp trawler located them Monday. A Canadian military helicopter brought them to Iqaluit, a small town on the southern tip of Baffin Island, where they were reported in good condition.
“They were very healthy,” Bo Mortensen, captain of the Atlantic Enterprise, the trawler that located them, told the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper. “One of them was frostbitten on his feet. They were smiling and crying.”
The pilots wore survival suits designed for water landings. They had taken off from Labrador for what they expected to be a two-to-three-hour leg on their overwater journey to Europe. When both engines failed, they made emergency radio calls, and a Canadian rescue center in Halifax coordinated the search. The Atlantic Enterprise was about 180 miles away from the place where the airplane touched down.
Both pilots escaped the sinking airplane through the side windows.