A Boeing 737 crashed in Canada's high Arctic on Saturday, killing 12 of the 15 people on board, the government transportation agency said.

The plane owned by First Air, crashed at about 1:30 p.m while approaching Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for a landing, according to the agency, Transport Canada.

The airliner crashed while it was in the middle of a mock military and civil defense exercise that was simulating an airliner crash in the country's high Arctic, an avweb.com report stated. Because of the mock exercise, investigators were already present in the community.

 We're here to improve our capabilities to operate in the Arctic ... The operation was going to involve an air disaster scenario that would have seen us responding to an aircraft going down in the Arctic, which, unfortunately, is exactly what played out today, Sun Media Group quoted Royal Canadian Air Force spokesman as saying.

Members of the Canadian military contingent rushed to the scene to put out fires and rescue survivors.

Reports say that two flight attendants and a seven-year-old girl were the only survivors in the crash, and that the passengers were all residents of the Resolute Bay area.