On July 27, pilot Matt Lehtinen found himself living his worst nightmare. While flying alone in his single-prop aircraft over the remote Quebec wilderness, the plane suffered a mechanical failure that put it into an unrecoverable descent. After crashing into the dense forest (using parachutes to slow his fall), some people might have taken a moment to lament their luck — but Lehtinen instead pulled out a camera and set to work putting on a clinic on how exactly to get rescued.
“I’m just going to take this vlog so people can learn from this experience, so something good can come out of it,” Lehtinen says in the video after showing the aircraft embedded in the trees. For bush pilots and those who regularly travel over remote wilderness, surviving the crash is often the least of their worries. With so much ground to cover, even large scale search efforts often yield no signs of lost aircraft or their crews.
Lehtinen’s level-headedness and quick thinking, however, helped secure his rescue in just a matter of hours. First, he sent out an SOS distress call, then immediately set to work trying to locate his First Aid kit and signal flares. Then, he started a fire to mark his location with smoke. It’s worth noting that he started the fire using a Bic lighter he had in the console of the aircraft. All too often, people tend to overthink fire in a survival situation, opting to carry and use elaborate fire-starting gear while utterly forgetting about readily available sources of fire we often have handy.
The most important part of his effort, however, came by way of his satellite communicator (he used a Garmin inReach), which he was able to use to communicate with his family and coordinate a rescue response.
Before long, a low flying C-130 swoops in overhead, confirming for Lehtinen that help is indeed on its way. Within five hours after the crash, a rescue helicopter arrives, and Lehtinen is on his way home. He concludes his video by thanking the Canadian Royal Air Force, Mounted Police, Search and Rescue, Air Traffic Control and local law enforcement for their combined efforts in finding and rescuing him. He signs off, “You are my heroes, and you saved my life. Sincerely, a grateful American.”
This video offers a number of important lessons, like the value of carrying a satellite communicator — but unlike so many guide books, how-to’s, and pamphlets, it shows how keeping your head and relying on your training can help get you through an actual bad situation. Lehtinen didn’t offer up hypothetical solutions, he got to work and made his own luck. More often than not, that’s exactly what it takes to survive.