I was supposed to take a friend's daughter flying on the 28th. It was her 18th birthday, and her mom, Tamara, and dad, Vern, had written a greeting in the snow near Winnipeg Beach, and I was going to fly her over it. In the meantime, I got a call for an ELT search. I called a crew, and then left to take Amy and her boyfriend Austin flying.
When I landed at 5:30 pm, the flying crew still hadn't found the ELT. The signal was weak and bouncing around a lot. By 6 pm, the air force had launched a Hercules to try to find it, but our airplane was still up. After quite a bit of work, chasing the signal south of Winnipeg, and then back north again, the CASARA airplane managed to localise it to a point near Birds Hill. The Herc was up at 10,000 feet, and couldn't pick up the signal at all.
Jerry had arrived at the CASARA building shortly before I landed. When our crew came up with a good location, Jerry and I grabbed some ground homing equipment, and headed towards the identified spot, which was on Highway 207 north of Garven Road. As we drove south on Highway 59, we picked up the signal as we passed Coronation Road. It got very strong, then quickly faded away.
We drove north on Highway 207 from Garven Road, but could not pick up a signal at all. We decided to return to Highway 59, and were able to regain the signal. We turned onto a side road and tried the homer. The signal was all over the place. We drove back and forth along the road to see what the signal would do - it seemed to mostly indicate that the source was to the west, across the floodway.
By this time, the CASARA airplane had returned to St Andrews, low on fuel. The Herc was down to 5,000' trying to pick up the signal.
We installed the vehicle kit for the ELT homer, and drove back towards Highway 59. The signal continued to bounce around, making it very difficult to determine where to go next. I got out of the car and started walking. The signal seemed to get stronger as I headed south. I tried the "tune off frequency" technique as I walked, and was rewarded with a bit of bleed through.
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I headed back to the car, and we drove south. As we came to the next intersection, the homer still indicated that the signal was to the west, across the floodway. But that didn't seem to make sense. Tuning off frequency suggests that the signal source is very close.
It wouldn't have been possible to see a hangar or an airplane from the road, but there was a house at the intersection. I followed the signal to the house, and looked around the back, but nothing to see. Finally, I rang the bell. With the ELT screaming on the radio, I asked the occupant if there was an airfield or a small airplane nearby. Sure enough, there were two, one to the north and one to the south. And, the airplane at the north field had been flying today. I said thanks, headed back to the car, and headed to the northern house.
As we pulled into the driveway, the signal got very strong. We rang the bell, but no one answered. By now, the Herc was closing in on the house, too, flying quite low and fairly close. I walked around the hangar in the back, and became convinced that the signal source was inside. Jerry, using homing equipment, came to the same conclusion. The hangar was locked, so we tried ringing the bell again. This time, the owner answered the door.
He took us into the hangar, where the field strength meter confirmed that the signal was coming from this airplane - not that we were in any doubt by now. The owner turned off the ELT, and the radio was silent at last. It had taken over two and a half hours to track it down. As we walked out of the hangar, the Herc passed directly over the hangar, having obviously identified the target.
We took down the owner's information, aircraft registration and ELT type, and headed back to St Andrews. The search was difficult because the hangar was all metal, and had electrical wire coils hung along the walls.
1 week ago