Clouds cut short Friday search for missing Rainy Pass plane
A second day of attempts to find Aircraft still missing near Rainy Pass overnight with one person on board has ended Friday, after multiple agencies sent aircraft into low cloud cover.
David Bedard, a spokesman with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing, said Friday's search efforts ended in the early afternoon hours. A 2,000-foot cloud ceiling persisted in the area and did not lift Friday, making search efforts too risky to continue.
"Search aircraft and personnel have returned to base and will likely go out tomorrow pending improvements in the weather," Bedard said. "You have to be very careful when you don't have visibility of the terrain and you're not able to navigate."
An HC-130 search plane from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage had joined an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying pararescuemen Friday, Bedard said. Alaska State Troopers’ Helo-3 also tried to join the search Friday, according to troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain, but was turned back by "inclement weather."
On Friday, Bedard confirmed that no passengers were on board the missing Cessna 172.
“As far as we know, it’s just the pilot,” Bedard said.
Civil Air Patrol Maj. Bryan Emerson provided additional details on the search area Friday evening, urging pilots to avoid it during future search-and-rescue activities.
"The search is centered in an area between Rainy Pass and Simpson Pass northwest of Anchorage," Emerson wrote. "The area has multiple aircraft both fixed-wing and helicopter, engaged in searching for the missing pilot and aircraft not involved in the search are requested to remain out of the area or at higher altitudes so as not to interfere and place search crews in danger."
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race officials said in a Thursday statement that the plane was not affiliated with the race, adding that no Iditarod Air Force aircraft “is currently flying on this side of the Alaska Range.”
The National Transportation Safety Board's Clint Johnson said the missing plane had taken off from Farewell, near Rainy Pass, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday en route to Wasilla.
Bedard said no sign of the plane, including an emergency locator transmitter signal, has been found Thursday or Friday. Friday’s search grid for the Cessna was based on its flight plan, as well as a radar track which lost the aircraft “in the Rainy Pass area.”
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