PALMER - A group of pilots, spotters, friends and family gathered at Wolf Lake Airport in Palmer, Thursday afternoon to look for a 27-year-old man who has been missing since last weekend.
“Brendan is a good kid,” said Ryan Mattingley. His brother Brendan went missing on October 13 from Soldotna.
He flew his white Super Cub, with a green underbelly and red wings and tail, down the Kenai Peninsula to spend time with friends.
“We just flew down Friday night to Soldotna, to go down their and catch a hockey game and meet up with a couple buddies that live down there,” said friend Eric Wansor. “And just stay the night, wake up in the morning and go flying around.
His friends said they dropped him off at the airport around midnight, and that he planned to spend the night in his plane. They all planned on meeting back at the Wolf Lake Airport on the 14th.
But when they arrived back at the Palmer airport on Saturday, Brendan's plane was gone. Wansor said they figured he was just out flying around, but by the time it became dark they began to worry.
He officially became a missing pilot Sunday morning.
“It definitely sucks, you know? I wish we could have taken off at the same time, but that is just kind of the way it is,” said Wansor. “He is a early riser and gets a jump on the day.”
While the people he loves, as well as strangers, come together to look for him, fear is left in the minds of his friends, brothers and parents, who are waiting to know what happened to their son before they tell his daughter.
“That child is seven years old and...” said Ryan Mattingley, as tears fall down his cheeks, "it’s hard for the rest of us to know that he is gone and have to tell a seven-year-old that your dad isn't coming back.”
Ryan and Brendan Mattingley are just two of five brothers. Six years ago one of the youngest died.
“Parents aren't supposed to bury their sons,” said Ryan Mattingley, and added that the community’s outpouring of support encourages him.
Since Sunday, when the search first began, more than 20 private jets have taken off. And for the first time since it all began, Ryan Mattingley made his way to the sky. “I’ve never met them before in my life,” said Ryan Mattingley, before boarding a plane with two strangers.
His family said someone donated a half-day helicopter rental Saturday. They have also set up a fund, forwhich all of the money will go to fueling the planes, and a Facebook page that his family and friends are frequently updating.
His brother said if he can’t find him by plane he will be ”lacing up his hiking boots.”
“You know I miss him,” said Ryan Mattingley. “He’s only been gone a couple days. I keep trying to tell myself if I was missing out there I know that Brendan wouldn't stop looking for me until I came home safe or they brought me home in a box. And I am not giving up on him.”