Information found – missing helicopter 1971

In the early ’70s a Hughes 500 went missing in Northern Quebec. I believe it might have been operating on a Baie James project. I do remember the incident but my memory fails me. As I recall, the 500 was eventually located, machine intact and engine inlet and outlet covers installed. Fuel was added and the helicopter was flown away. Pilot and passenger were never located.

I received a request from a reader for more information. Thanks to a note from a former Viking Helicopters employee, I have some additional information:

I remember this incident but it was a long time ago, approx 1972 [perhaps 1971, ed.] or 45 years ago. It was a Skyrotors helicopter working out of a camp between Shefferville PQ and Caniapiscau. The helicopter, a Hughes 500, was in Shefferville picking up a food order for the camp.

While he was in Shefferville the pilot met up with a radio tech from Skyrotors to get some work done The pilot was on contract and I did not know him. The pilot, the tech and the food left for camp in marginal VFR due to flurries and that was the last time we heard from them. The helicopter was spotted a year later by a passing fixed wing pilot and reported to air services that a helicopter was sighted with covers on but no sign of life.

A search of lost a/c in the area was carried out ending with Skyrotors being notified of the a/c location. Skyrotors ops manager flew into the site with fuel and a battery. He was a pilot engineer. He inspected the a/c put in fuel and battery, removed covers and flew the a/c back to Arnprior Ontario.

A note was found on the a/c stating they had stayed in the camp for a number of weeks waiting for search and rescue. They had burned down a large amount of the surrounding bush trying to attract attention to no avail. It turned out they were on course but overflew the camp by 50 miles before setting down due to fuel.

ELTs were not long life in those days due to battery life. The radio tech had used the cells from the aircraft’s nicad battery to power the ELT until they left. When they finally gave up hope they would be found, they left a note explaining everything and their plans and directions they were going to use in their attempt to walk out. They have never been found.

At Skyrotors we could not understand why they were never found. A search and rescue mission should search an area on its flight path at least to the extent of the a/c range so why they were not sighted after burning large amounts of bush is a mystery.

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