Ray Carter, line chief at Yellowknife called over the radio, “Clem, we can’t get the hot air blowers out; you’ll have to take a chance of the straw and fibre matting we use for the big rigs when they get stuck.”
“Anything you can give me, Ray, will be welcome; once we touch down we’ll be at the mercy of the icy ground, here’s hoping we get out of this safe and relatively unharmed, Clem out.”
Joe turned to Clem and with a worried voice he said, “Did I hear correct? Did he say big rigs as in trucks?”
Clem nodded and replied, “Sure thing, Yellowknife is the biggest oil drilling site in the Northwest Territories; they need a strip because only truckers are safe on the ice, from day to day the ice thickness varies and they need to regulate the traffic on the ice.”
“Have you landed there before?”
“Yeah, almost once a month until a few months back, but never on low fuel and in these conditions, this time it’s gonna be touch and go, Joe,” Clem looked at Joe and smiled, then continued, “ain’t nothing we can do now but hope and pray; I see the runway flares ahead.”
When Clem finished, Ray came back on the radio, “Clem can you gain height? You’re coming in too low and fast.”
“Negative on that call, Ray, we are coming in and this is our chance; pray we get down safe.”
The Cherokee came in low and fast, the buffeting of the wind and low visibility made it impossible for Clem to see further than a few hundred yards in front and not more than the width of the plane to the sides. He lined up the plane as best he could and judged his landing speed, but they still hadn’t lost enough to make a good landing at Yellowknife; dangers mounted as options decreased; there was little to do but put her down and hope the matting gripped the tyres in time to slow the plane before she turned over and burst into flames trapping the men inside a plane sinking into the freezing water below.
Clem eased the stick forward, hoping the wind would push his plane down and help lower the speed, the last thing he needed was a sudden up draught to flip the plane; as she plane touched the ground she skidded and bounced on the packed ice, even the fibre matting was doing little to help as Ray stood in horror as he watched Clem fight to halt the slide, “Get the rescue teams out!” he yelled to the line huts, “runway 3, plane out of control.”
The plane bounced on the iced matting like a ballerina about to fall, through the winds and snow Joe could hear the sirens as the rescue trucks screeched to their designated crash positions; in the need for speed signals were not needed as each team had a designated spot to go to; the sooner they got there, the higher the chance of saving a life in water where a few seconds mean the difference between a life and corpse.
In the seat next to Joe, Clem fought valiantly to try and turn the plane to the side; he used the theory that a sideways moving vehicle is going against the direction of travel and will slow quicker, giving them a better chance of fighting a slide; then the worst happened and they heard the ice start to crack under the weight of their plane.