Hayes set to join search for missing plane

01:45, Jan 25 2013
Richard "Hannibal" Hayes
Richard "Hannibal" Hayes.

Southland's legendary search and rescue pilot Richard "Hannibal' Hayes" and Wanaka resident Anthea Fisher are on standby this morning to join the search for a missing aircraft with three Canadian men on board in Antarctica.

A Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesman confirmed Mr Hayes had offered his services, which were gratefully received.

At this stage until the weather improved, fixed wing aircrafts would still be used first, the spokesman said.

However, as the weather was expected to improve Mr Hayes chopper could be possibly used later in the afternoon, the spokesman said.

The centre is co-ordinating the search, working with United States, Canadian and Italian authorities, after the Twin Otter aircraft's emergency locator transmitter was activated about 10pm on Wednesday.

The beacon is transmitting from the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range, within New Zealand's search and rescue region - halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station - about 680km in each direction.

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There is solid cloud cover in the area, high winds of up to 170kmh, and heavy snow.

The Canadian crew was overdue on a flight in Antartica from the South Pole to Terra Nova Bay.

Mr Hayes, who runs Southern Lakes Helicopters, based in Te Anau, secured a three-year Antartica New Zealand contract to support the work of scientists and researchers from Scott Base.

Initially Southern Lakes Helicopter pilot Chris Green and engineer Dave Gregory were based in Antarctica, and Mr Hayes joined the team this month to relieve Mr Green.

Mr Hayes, an experienced pilot, is renowned in the south for his search and rescue work.

Ms Fisher, originally from Australia, is an experienced mountain guide and a former leader of the Aoraki/Mt Cook search and rescue team.

Antarctica New Zealand operations and infrastructure acting manager Graeme Ayers said Ms Fisher had been at Scott Base since October.

She is employed as a training instructor, teaching survival skills and refresher courses for Antarctic personnel throughout the summer season.

She also had regular training with the American search and rescue teams from McMurdo Base for exactly this kind of situation, Mr Ayers said.

The Southland Times