From Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs
Under the hands of 8 Wing Commander Colonel Colin Keiver, a CC-130J Hercules aircraft circles an area 16 kilometres south of Canadian Forces Station Alert on June 14, 2016. Even on this beautiful sunny day, it is apparent this is no land to be messed with. Barren, snow-covered, and windswept – this is Canada’s most northern reaches. Add in darkness, blizzard conditions, and -30°C temperatures, and the feat of human survival becomes all that much more incredible.
“I can’t believe I spent more than 30 hours out here,” says Master Warrant Officer Tony Cobden as he looks out the small round window of the Hercules at the remnants of the CC-130 on the ground.
It was 25 years earlier when Master Warrant Officer Cobden, a communications researcher, and 17 others, were on board Boxtop Flight 22 when it crashed on final approach to CFS Alert during Operation Boxtop, the bi-annual resupply of the station. Logistics officer Captain Judy Trépanier, CANEX regional services manager Master Warrant Officer Tom Jardine, supply technician Warrant Officer Robert Grimsley and traffic technician Master Corporal Roland Pitre all died in the crash, while the aircraft’s commander, Captain John Couch, succumbed to hypothermia after leading the effort to survive in place, and giving up his coat to the other survivors.
Master Warrant Officer Cobden, the one survivor still serving today in the Canadian Armed Forces, fittingly represents all those on Boxtop…