Bad weather prevents search teams from getting to Labrador floatplane crash site

Poor weather conditions have delayed the arrival of RCMP search teams heading to the remote Labrador lake where a floatplane carrying seven people crashed on Monday.

Three bodies have been found and four men are still missing, though authorities have suggested there is little hope of finding survivors so many days after the crash, the cause of which is still unknown.

RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jolene Garland said high winds and heavy rain prevented the air trips, which would have carried personnel and equipment, from flying to the scene on Thursday.

She said there looks to be a window on Friday where search teams will be able to arrive near Mistastin Lake, about 100 kilometres southwest of Nain, where debris from the plane was spotted Tuesday.

"The weather has to co-operate to allow us in. This would be multiple trips using both helicopter and airplanes to get people and resources, equipment, into the scene to be able to conduct that kind of search," Garland told CBC News on Thursday afternoon. 

Pilot Gilles Morin, 61, of Quebec has been identified by his employer as one of the seven men on board.

RCMP said the two fishing guides on board were from Newfoundland and Labrador, and the four fishermen, travelling from Three Rivers Lodge in Labrador to a remote fishing site, were from the United States.

The identities of the six passengers have not yet been confirmed.

'Challenging' recovery mission

The rescue mission became a recovery one Wednesday, and the RCMP took over the investigation into the crash. 

Garland said in total, about 15 people would be involved in the search. She said the mission poses several challenges, including fuelling the multiple aircraft and boats involved.  

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"The logistics of getting the equipment in and landing in particular places out there, trying to find a safe spot to be able to land, whether on the land or the water," she said. 

"Communication is certainly an issue down in that area. There is no cellular service .. you'd be using satellite phones at best."

Plane owner Air Saguenay said weather was good on Monday and the plane had undergone a mechanical inspection in the spring.

Aviation experts defend aircraft

In the last week, there have been three fatal crashes involving the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane — the same type of plane that crashed into Mistastin Lake. 

Two people were killed in a crash July 11 in central Ontario. A day later, a plane crashed near Lac Boulène, southeast of Chibougamau, Que., killing three of four people on board.

Air Saguenay president Jean Tremblay insisted the plane is safe.

"The Beaver [has operated] since the '50s and is still in operation," he told CBC News on Wednesday.

Others appear to share Tremblay's view.

"In the air, the Beaver is considered a Jeep by comparison," said Gilles Lapierre, past president of Aviateurs Québec, an association of Quebec pilots.

"Even if it's 50 years old or more, there is no modern plane that can compare to the Beaver, and that's why it's still very popular among outfitters, seaplane operators and companies whose business is to fly people in the bush."

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Lapierre said it's not an aircraft that's "built for flight in the clouds."

"Sometimes when flying it in changing weather, you can inadvertently find yourself in conditions where you lose visibility.… You try to get out of that situation because the craft isn't equipped for instrument flight," he said.

A representative of the Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to travel  to the area to help determine what happened, but not until the aircraft is recovered. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador