LORI, ED, PETER AND BRETT'S
I fielded the "pager pass" at the Bingo on Monday, January 28, 2002. After confirming that the unit actually worked out in the boonies of Lappe, I totally ignored it. That is, until I was rudely awakened at 8:10 am on Thursday, January 31 by its insistent beeping.
RCC in Trenton was receiving ELT signals from the Upsala area. Captain Siebert requested NOASARA's assistance with the search. A Herc from Winnipeg was in transit and we were to provide ground support with the ELT vehicular homer.
Within an hour of accepting the tasking, the crew (Lori Luck, Ed Tulin, Peter Huneau and Brett Rushton) was on its way. Steve Carlson agreed to man the operations desk in order to communicate between RCC and ourselves. We commandeered Steve's cell phone.
When we were approximately 20 minutes away from Upsala, Steve updated the signal's co-ordinates. The Herc crew had been circling the Upsala General Store, the school and the Upsala Nursing Station; flying low, lights flashing. The signal seemed to be coming from the Helopad behind the Nursing Station but there was no aircraft visible.
Arriving in Upsala, our crew picked up the signal while passing the General Store but when we pulled into the Nursing Station which is only a short distance away, the signal stopped. Steve called to advise that the Herc had returned to Winnipeg and that an OPP officer was enroute to assist.
Peter questioned the staff at the Nursing Station while Brett used the handheld homer to check along Highway 17. After one momentary hit, nothing was picked up on either the vehicle quads or the handheld. Things started getting interesting.
After seeing a huge, green plane circling Upsala, flying low with its lights flashing; memories of September 11 must have been on the minds of the residents of Upsala. "Could this be a terrorist bent on crashing the aircraft into the tallest building in Upsala?" At the very least, the locals feared the plane was in distress and about to crash. By the time we arrived, the school had been evacuated and the news media was already broadcasting these strange events. This was confirmed by the OPP Sgt. who was quite disgruntled at being left out of the loop.
With explanations out of the way and fears laid to rest, our crew continued to search the immediate area without success. We expanded our search to include a 4 km radius around Upsala. While on the first leg we again picked up the signal approximately 7 km west of Upsala. We followed the signal down a private driveway right up to a house on a lake.
We approached the house and knocked on the door. Brett politely asked the older gentleman who appeared "Could there possibly be an ELT on the premises?" The gentleman got that "deer in the headlights" look and called to his son Larry. He, in turn, called to Mom with "Did you pick up that parcel from the Post Office?"
We were invited in and the package in question was set on the kitchen table unopened. Upon opening, the ELT was revealed, wrapped in plastic. Further investigation showed that the deactivating shorting pins were not in place and no where to be found.
During coffee and cookies we discovered THE REST OF THE STORY!
Seems Larry had bought a Cessna on floats in July, 2001. The ELT was not working properly so he disconnected the battery and shipped the unit back for repairs and a new battery. The repair facility had shipped the ELT back in the "arm" position via Canada Post. Obviously, this parcel made it all the way to the Upsala Post Office without being activated. But early Thursday morning when the mail was being sorted something happened to activate the unit. This is when the signal was first picked up - at the Post Office.
Just about the time NOASARA's crew was arriving in Upsala, Larry's mom was on her way to the Post Office to pick up the mail. I've heard of ships passing in the night but not ELTs and Homers passing on the highway.
So a happy ending to our excellent adventure. Larry and his parents know the true value of an ELT - they do work and so do our Homers. Larry is very interested in joining NOASARA. A job well done and a new recruit.
Our crew had to hurry back to Thunder Bay for Thursday night training. You guessed it, the subject - ELT Homing!
Written by Lori Luck