Weather still hindering Antarctic search

No flights can get to the site where a plane carrying three Canadian men crashed in Antarctica, because of continuing poor weather.

The plane disappeared on a flight from the South Pole to Terra Nova Bay on Wednesday evening, prompting a rescue mission led by New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC), with the help of US and Italian officials.

Its emergency locator beacon was transmitting from the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range at a height of 3900m, within New Zealand's Search and Rescue Region - about 680km from both Scott Base and the South Pole.

A Twin Otter plane left McMurdo station and flew over the crash site this morning to a base north of the site. From there, helicopters were going to attempt to get to the location of the emergency beacon.

But this afternoon, the RCC said the weather had not changed and no flights would take place until conditions improved.

RCC spokesman Steve Rendle said heavy cloud and strong winds had prevented the Twin Otter from seeing any sign of the downed plane.

The signal from the locator beacon had also stopped, but that was not unexpected considering battery life and the extreme conditions, Mr Rendle said.

RCC search and rescue mission coordinator Kevin Banaghan said weather conditions remained very challenging and were forecast to continue for the next 12 hours.

"However, over the next 24 hours winds in the area are forecast to drop from 90 knots (170km/h) to 20 knots (35km/h), with cloud forecast to lift and become scattered."

Two helicopters, including a Southern Lakes (New Zealand) helicopter on contract to Antarctica New Zealand at Scott Base, remained on standby should weather conditions change.

The missing plane was equipped with survival equipment, including mountain tents, and supplies sufficient for five days.

The missing aircraft was owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd, a Canadian firm headquartered in Calgary that charters aircraft to the US programme.

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