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Missing helicopter pilot found dead

A CC-115 Buffalo aircraft of the type  that searched for a missing helicopter pilot and his aircraft from Langley. - Courtesy RCAF
A CC-115 Buffalo aircraft of the type that searched for a missing helicopter pilot and his aircraft from Langley.
— image credit: Courtesy RCAF

Rod Phillipson was a survivor.

The 61-year-old veteran pilot went back to flying after suffering serious injuries in a fixed-wing crash in a Rocky mountain range several years ago.

He flew helicopters, working at pipeline patrol and movie support jobs.

Despite the economic downturn in the aviation industry, Phillipson was planning to open his own flying school at the Langley Regional Airport, where he'd owned his own hangar for about 10 years.

He'd acquired the necessary training aircraft and was planning to expand his hangar.

He was even setting up a website.

Airport manager George Miller described Phillipson as a  "fairly serious" and reserved man of few words who was unfailingly reasonable and civil.

"He was very easy to deal with" Miller said.

"I liked him."

On Friday (Sept. 16), Phillipson lifted off from the Langley airport in a Aerospatiale A350 helicopter and headed for Kelowna.

When he didn't arrive, an air search of the heavily forested and mountainous area was mounted.

At its height, two RCAF CC-115 Buffalo fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft and two CH-149 Cormorant helicopters were involved in the search along with 14 civilian aircraft, operated by CASARA [Civil Air Search and Rescue Association] volunteers flying from Chilliwack, Kamloops and Kelowna.

Phillipson was located Tuesday afternoon near Coquihalla Mountain by a civilian resupply helicopter not involved in the search.

Transport Canada and the coroner's office are now investigating his death.

"The thoughts and prayers of the entire search team are with the family right now," search master Capt. David Burneau, of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 19 Wing Comox, said in a written statement.

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