A Burnaby boy who went on to become a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot is receiving one of the world's premier aviation awards for his involvement in a perilous rescue in Arctic waters.
Aaron Noble moved to Burnaby with his family at age 10 and attended air cadets in Queen's Park, New Westminster. He later attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the U.S. and took a post with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot in Greenwood, N.S.
Noble is receiving the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators award for gallantry. The guild's annual trophy and awards presentation is to honour the highest standards of airmanship and are considered, according to the guild, "among the world's premier aviation accolades."
According to a press release from the guild, on Oct. 27, 2011, Noble and his crew responded to a distress call near Igloolik, Nunavut. Two hunters were stranded on iceflow, high in the Arctic, and the conditions were worsening. A rescue plane flew over the scene, and two men parachuted below, but large chunks of ice were tossed in the air by 55- to 90-kilometere winds and violent waves reaching up to 10 metres high.
Noble's helicopter was also dispatched, but it was a 14-hour flight to reach the hunters. When Noble, the aircraft's commander, and his first office captain Dean Vey arrived on the scene, they found two rescue team members exposed to freezing sea spray, which coated their clothing with ice, making it difficult to swim towards the hunters. Tragically, one of the three search-and-rescue divers involved lost his life that day.
"The combination of their efforts and highly skilled winching techniques of flight engineer Sgt. Brad Hiscock ultimately ensured the safe recovery of the two hunters and the surviving search-and-rescue divers as well as the recovery of their fallen comrade," the guild's release reads. "With all people accounted for, the helicopter eventually recovered to Igloolik, low on fuel after a rescue operation that had spanned 18 hours."
Noble will receive his award on Oct. 23 in London, England.