81-Year-Old Pilot Makes Emergency Landing on Glacier

Gabrielle Klemt - 1B Geological
Posted on: June 18, 2016

When you learn to fly, the first thing they teach you after “don’t stand beside the propeller”, is your emergency procedures. With planes, there’s are an awful lot of things that can go wrong and it’s important that you be prepared to deal with any one of them before you even do a take-off. This is just something all pilots learn and while it’s common to know other people who have had in-flight emergencies, you never think it will happen to you.

Luckily for 81-year old pilot Vern Hannah and his two passengers, he was paying attention when he was taught his emergency procedures. On a flight in his single-engine Beechcraft from Kelowna to Whistler two weeks ago, a spur-of-the-moment detour down a valley turned into an early landing on a glacier.

The plane started losing power and came closer and closer to stalling as they reached the end of the valley. They only managed to clear some rocks and maintain altitude when they spotted the glacier. The pilot, managed to bring the plane down on the ice field in the soft snow, executing a perfect soft-field landing, with “not even a bump” to any the passengers.

When the plane was safely on the ground, and completely unharmed, they tried crawling across the glacier, avoiding crevices and looking for a way to get to safety. The trek up the glacier was too hard for the pilot so they instead followed a river and spent the night in the forest. The next day, they heard the rescue helicopter, and two hours later were safe and warm and headed back to town.

The feat of bringing off a perfect landing in emergency situations on a glacier is impressive enough as it is, add to that the fact that Hannah is 81 and you have my hero of the month. All I can hope is that I have a plane by the time I’m 81, let alone still being able to fly it. Though he says he’s taking a hiatus from flying for now I hope he keeps it up, as you can see from this story, passion will keep you young!