January 31, 2019

Rescued Pilot Returns To Rescue Plane


A Manitoba pilot who was rescued from remote Pickerel Lake last week returned to the scene to rescue his Piper PA-22.

Happy Bednarek, 72, took off on January 12 from an airstrip in Steep Rock, 210 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, heading to a camp on Sisib Lake, about 170 kilometres to the north. There, he was to meet up with friends.

Nature called en route, however, so Bednarek decided to put down on the frozen surface of Pickerel Lake for a pee break. The plane, however, refused to start up again. When he didn’t show up by the afternoon of January 13, the RCMP were notified.

Bednarek then dragged some supplies to the shoreline, built a fire and awaited rescue. A SAR Hercules dispatched from Trenton, Ontario and Bednarek was spotted early Monday morning. SAR Techs were initially unable to parachute in due to adverse weather, so the RCMP started out in snowmobiles from 45 kilometres away. Canadian Rangers, the RCMP and the SAR Techs all arrived at about the same time. A helicopter later recovered Bednarek and the SAR Techs. He had spent 52 hours awaiting rescue.

On Tuesday of this week, Bednarek returned to Pickerel Lake on snowmobiles with five friends and family members, including his son Darren, an aircraft mechanic. They fastened a rope to the Piper and towed it to shore with a snowmobile. There, with the help of a generator, they were able to warm up the engine enough to get it started.

Bednarek’s frozen PA-22 gets towed to the shore for some preheating thanks to a portable generator.

“He flipped it over on the prop because it’s a hand start, and I was inside manning the throttle and the primer and stuff like that, and it went on the second flip,” Bednarek said.

He later flew the plane back to his home base in Steep Rock.