LAKE LOUISE – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating a “hard landing” of a Golden-based helicopter carrying three glaciologists doing research at the Athabasca Glacier last month, prompting calls for help to national park rescuers based in Banff.
According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), C-GKJZ, an Alpine Helicopters Bell 407 helicopter had an accident at Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park on the border with Banff on April 14.
Liam MacDonald, communications coordinator for TSB, said the helicopter was on a flight from Golden Municipal Airport with the pilot and three passengers on board.
“During landing, the helicopter rolled onto its side. The occupants egressed without injury. The helicopter was substantially damaged,” he said.
“The accident is currently under investigation.”
Parks Canada officials say the pilot was transporting a team of three glaciologists when the helicopter was involved in a “hard landing” – typically defined as a pilot having total or partial control over the aircraft, as opposed to an uncontrolled descent or crash.
“No injuries were reported, though the aircraft was damaged and inoperable,” said James Eastham, a Parks Canada spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay in a statement.
“The landing caused some fuel, oil and transmission fluid to leak onto the glacier.”
Eastham said Parks Canada was able to contact the party by satellite phone and determined that the pilot and three glaciologists were all uninjured.
“They were in a safe location and equipped to shelter in place on the glacier,” he said.
The aircraft operator was phoned to inform them of the incident, Eastham said, noting a second helicopter was dispatched and on scene by 4:55 p.m.
“The glaciology team was flown to their original destination – a camp below Mount Snow Dome – and the flight crew returned to their base in Golden,” he said.
On April 18, the helicopter company returned to the site to begin initial cleanup of the area and plan for the removal of the damaged helicopter.
Eastham said some contaminated material was bagged for removal, but cleanup work was stopped due to inclement weather.
“Parks Canada and the aircraft operator returned to the site on April 25 to finalize cleanup of the contaminated snow and removed the damaged helicopter,” he said.
Natural Resources Canada confirmed one of its employees with the Geological Survey of Canada was on the helicopter conducting climate change geoscience fieldwork.
“There has been no report of injuries. Fieldwork has resumed,” said Miriam Galipeau, communications advisor for Natural Resources Canada in an email.
A spokesperson for Alpine in Golden could not be reached for comment by deadline, but the story will be updated if the Outlook hears back from the company.