Bob Heath, the 'star pilot' of Calgary's go-anywhere airline Kenn Borek, was the man behind the controls of a Canadian plane that disappeared while flying over Antarctica.
Heath's wife Lucy has confirmed her husband is the pilot of the missing aircraft, the Calgary Sun reports.
“Kenn Borek just phoned me to say Bob’s plane was down, and they were trying to reach it,” Lucy told The Sun, who described the North West Territories resident as a grizzled air veteran and a legend of extreme polar flying.
“I’m just waiting for news.. I'm so worried.”
Friends took to Twitter to express their anxiety and to send the well-humoured pilot their wish of a safe return.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER GALLERY..
Heath was behind the controls of one of Kenn Borek's greatest moments, when a Calgary-based crew executed the first successful air rescue mission to the South Pole Research Station to retrieve a doctor suffering from pancreatitis in 2001, reports Metro Calgary.
“He’s a role-model to younger pilots, active in training,” said Tony Szekely, a Calgary resident and Heath's co-pilot on that particular adventure.
“He’s been to both poles numerous times, he’s highly experienced in the Antarctic region.”
Northern Canada blogger Kyle Thomas wrote about Heath last summer and was captivated by the short, stocky man with the knowledge, the big humour and the even bigger passion.
In a video posted by Thomas of his time with Heath, the grizzled pilot makes the best of his inflight safety instructions.
"Opening the emergency exit? Just push her out of the way, grab that cover, pull the handle, push the window.
"Don't do that while we're flying, since I'm interested in having a nap and I don't want to bother."
Thomas was taken by the 25-year pilot's understanding and affection for the north.
"He is a hidden gem of the north but he also represents what the north is all about," said Thomas of Heath.
"Maybe that is what makes him such a gem for those who meet him, he’s not a tourism operator, he is a pilot of the area and maybe that's the way he wants to keep it.
"Either way, it was an honour to meet Bob Heath."
Heath's plane, a ski-equipped Twin Otter, was flying from the South Pole to an Italian base in Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay when its emergency beacon went off en route and disappeared on Wednesday.
The location of the beacon has been located but severe weather has prevented rescuers from moving in.
Kenn Borek has said little about the incident and only confirmed three crew members are missing.
"The aircraft was repositioning from the South Pole Station to Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica, carrying three Canadian crew members. At present time, search and rescue efforts are being hampered by weather conditions," said the airline in a release.
"All Kenn Borek Air Ltd. assets in the area and other assets available to the New Zealand Search and Rescue are actively supporting and participating in this effort."
According to The Calgary Sun, Kenn Borek has 14 Twin Otters operating in Antarctica this season.