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A Piper Navajo returned to Colville Lake last week and made a "precautionary landing" on the lake after encountering severe icing conditions enroute to Deline on Nov. 12. -photo courtesy of Balcer/wikipedia

Icy ordeal on flight

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 24 2008

DELINE/FORT FRANKLIN - A twin-engine Piper Navajo aircraft operated by Ursus Aviation, bound for Deline, returned to Colville Lake after it encountered "severe icing conditions" on the way.

The aircraft made an uneventful "precautionary landing" on Nov. 12, after departing Deline at 6:35 p.m. local time, according to Jim Philip, Ursus Aviation's operations manager.

"There was no crashing or incident or anything," he said.

The plane was carrying five passengers - on a Sahtu Secretariat Inc. and Sahtu Dene Council government charter - and one crew.

"The pilot made a smart, intelligent, qualified decision to land on the lake," he said.

Blair Jensen, chief pilot and owner of the company, was flying the plane and decided to land on the lake - and not at Colville Lake's airstrip - because he didn't know what effect the accumulation of ice on the plane would have on his landing speed.

Philip said it was safer to land on the lake "because the lake is longer."

According to Philip, the aircraft manoeuvred to the dock next to the Co-op where passengers disembarked.

Passengers were put up in a hotel for the night and were flown to Deline the following day with another company.

An employee at the airport said Colville Lake's airstrip is lit up at night.

The strip is 2,743 feet long according to the department of transportation website.

The aircraft in question was still grounded in Colville Lake as of Wednesday, although Philip said it was from damages the aircraft sustained taxiing the next day.

"The plane sustained absolutely no damage on landing," he said.

Although Ursus officials spoke with the National Transportation Safety Board, no formal report was filed.

"There was no report on this one," said Mike Tomm, operations investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

"We just talked to the operator to see what happened."

Tomm said the aircraft landed on Colville Lake next to the town, after encountering icing on the way to Deline.

A passenger known to be on the flight, could not be reached for comment because she was out on the land at press time.

On Dec. 31, 2001, a Cessna 172 aircraft operated by Ursus Aviation travelling from Fort Good Hope to Tulita crashed into the side of a mountain killing all four people aboard after flying through a snow storm.