Severe winds and heavy snow continued to hamper the search for three Canadians aboard an airplane missing in Antarctica as rescue crews on standby braced for hours of more bad weather.

No information was available on the fate of the three men aboard the ski-equipped Twin Otter, which is owned by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air.

While the plane’s emergency locator beacon emitted signals, rescue crews were unable to establish any radio contact with the trio on board the aircraft.

“Weather is hampering things at the moment,” said Steve Rendle, a spokesman with New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Wellington, which was organizing the search.

“The winds are extreme, we are told the snow conditions are getting heavier and that’s preventing the helicopters and the Twin Otter (search) aircraft from heading down.”

The locator beacon, however, stopped transmitting at about 4:15 a.m. EDT, but centre spokesman Michael Flyger stressed there was no cause for alarm.

‘‘It just means that the beacon‘s battery has given up. They‘re only designed to broadcast for 24 hours (but) in cold conditions, they don‘t seem to last quite that long.‘‘

Flyger said the plane‘s location has been pinpointed, so the loss of the locator beacon signal is not an issue.

‘‘It‘s not going to compromise the search in any way because everybody knows where they‘ll be looking.‘‘

Kenn Borek Air, which is experienced in Antarctic aviation, did not provide any details on the three crew members on board the missing twin-engine propeller aircraft.

A spokesman for the U.S. National Science Foundation _ which operates an Antarctic research station helping in the search _ said the trio aboard the plane was thought to be a pilot, a co-pilot and a flight engineer.

“My understanding is that it was just the flight crew and no passengers,” said Peter West, who is based in Arlington, Va., and had been in touch with crews in Antarctica.

The plane was flying from the South Pole to an Italian base in Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay when its emergency beacon went off en route.

The region is in New Zealand’s area of responsibility and that country’s rescue crews were working with U.S., Canadian and Italian authorities.

“The flight was under the auspices of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development,” said West. “That’s who the flight was in support of.”

Some Canadians discussing the incident on Twitter identified Kenn Borek pilot Bob Heath as one of those on board the missing plane. Calls to his residence in Inuvik, N.W.T, were referred to the airline.

“Fingers crossed bigtime for friend Bob Heath - pilot of missing Kenn Borek Twin Otter down in Antarctic...25+ years experience extreme flying,” tweeted one person.

“Bob is an amazing pilot and a wonderful man. If anyone can get through this it’s him,” tweeted another.

The missing airplane began transmitting signals from its emergency locator beacon early Wednesday.

A U.S. LC-130 aircraft was soon sent to the area where the signal was coming from but was unable to spot the missing plane due to heavy, low cloud.

Later on Wednesday, about 16 hours after the plane went missing, a DC-3 aircraft spent hours over the same site, hoping to catch a glimpse of the downed plane or the crew, but thick clouds again prevented a search of the terrain below.

Rendle said the DC-3 aircraft spent around five hours circling overhead, but has since returned to McMurdo Base, and with the weather not expected to improve in the next 12 hours, it was unclear when the plane might return to the scene.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre said there is solid cloud cover in the area, high winds of up to 170 kilometres an hour and heavy snow.

Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters from New Zealand and the U.S. were on standby at McMurdo Station, an American research facility, ready to take to the skies as soon as the weather allowed.

“Conditions are forecast to worsen with snow becoming heavier. However, when weather conditions allow, a joint New Zealand and U.S. field rescue team is ready to go,” said John Ashby, New Zealand Search and Rescue Mission Co-ordinator.

The plane carrying the three Canadians was equipped with survival equipment, he said, including mountain tents and supplies which could last five days.

The site from where the plane’s beacon is emitting signals is approximately four hours away from McMurdo Station by helicopter and a two hour flight by the DC-3 aircraft.

Crews were hoping conditions would improve enough in the next few hours for them to establish a forward operating base at an unmanned station located some 50 kilometres from the beacon’s signal.

That base could then provide a co-ordination point from where search planes and helicopters could scour the terrain in the constant Antarctic daylight that is currently a bonus for rescue crews.

The missing plane’s signal is coming from the north end of Antarctica’s Queen Alexandra range _ about halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station _ and the terrain is considered mountainous.

Authorities in Canada were in contact with officials organizing the search in New Zealand Wednesday, but had few details to offer when it came to those on board the Canadian plane.

“We don’t know exactly what’s happening other than that the beacon is still transmitting,” said Capt. Jean Houde of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont..

“We don’t know the condition of the people on board.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said officials from the Canadian High Commission in Wellington were working closely with local authorities.

“Search and rescue operations are currently underway. Consular officials stand ready to provide consular services as required,” said spokeswoman Barbara Harvey.

Kenn Borek Air has been in operation since 1970. According to the company’s website, 14 aircraft participated in its 2012 Antarctic season.

The company, which is also a fixture in Canada’s North, has been sending planes to Antarctica for the past 28 years.

In 2001, its pilots and planes were involved in the daring rescue of an ailing American doctor from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

In 2009, the company was commissioned to recover an aircraft that had been involved in an accident nearly a year earlier. A 12-person Kenn Borek recovery crew spent 25 days at a remote field camp on the eastern side of the Antarctic Plateau to carry out the operation.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>The length of the runway -- just 7,152 feet -- is perfectly fine for small or medium-size jets, but as the second-busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean, it regularly welcomes so-called heavies -- long-haul wide-body jetliners like Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s -- from Europe, which fly in improbably low over Maho Beach and skim just over the perimeter fence.

  • Toncontín Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>Having negotiated the rough-hewn mountainous terrain, pilots must execute a dramatic 45-degree, last-minute bank to the left just minutes prior to touching down in a bowl-shaped valley on a runway just 6,112 feet in length. The airport, at an altitude of 3,294 feet, can accommodate aircraft no larger than Boeing 757’s.

  • Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>Pinched in by the Mediterranean on its eastern flank and the Bay of Gibraltar on its western side, the airport’s truncated runway stretches just 6,000 feet and requires pinpoint precision. And upon hitting the tarmac, pilots must quickly and fully engage the auto-brakes. Yet as nerve-wracking as the landing can be, it’s never guaranteed. Because of Gibraltar’s unique topography, the British colony endures unusual localized weather patterns that cause flights to be diverted to nearby Tangiers, Faro, and Malaga.

  • Madeira Airport, Funchal

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>Wedged in by mountains and the Atlantic, Madeira Airport requires a clockwise approach for which pilots are specially trained. Despite a unique elevated extension that was completed back in 2000 and now expands the runway length to what should be a comfortable 9,000 feet, the approach to Runway 05 remains a hair-raising affair that pilots absolutely dread. They must first point their aircraft at the mountains and, at the last minute, bank right to align with the fast-approaching runway.

  • Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>Perched on a precipitous gale-battered peninsula on the island’s northeastern corner, the airport requires pilots to tackle blustery trade winds, occasional spindrift, and their own uneasy constitutions as they maneuver in for a perfect landing (there’s no margin for error) on a runway that’s just 1,300 feet long. “Shorting this means ending up in the cliffs,” says one pilot matter-of-factly, “while overshooting it means an uncomfortable go-around. Either way, you’ll want to bring the Dramamine.”

  • Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br>Although it closed in 1998, this infamous urban airport will go down in history as one of the scariest of all time. Planes would practically graze skyscrapers and jagged mountains surrounding Kowloon Bay as they took off and landed on a single runway that shot headlong into Victoria Harbour.

  • Barra Airport, Barra, Scotland

    <a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-worlds-scariest-runways/9" target="_hplink">See More Scary Runways Here</a><br><br> Have you ever landed on a beach? The airport on the tiny Outer Hebridean Island of Barra is actually a wide shallow bay onto which scheduled planes land, making it a curiosity in the world of aviation. Admittedly, the roughness of the landings is determined by how the tide goes out to sea. Locals, who are avid cockle pickers, steer clear of the vast swath of hardened sand when the wind sock is up -- a sign that specially rigged Twin Otter propeller aircraft are incoming.<br><br>