Cost of Search for Missing Plane Over Katmai National Park and Preserve Approaching $1 Million
A mixed bag of weather Tuesday limited the unrelenting search in Katmai National Park and Preserve for a missing plane and its four occupants, according to National Park Service personnel.
The low ceiling over some mountain passes restricted aircraft from exploring those areas for the single-wing float plane with its four occupants, though better weather elsewhere over the 4.7-million-acre search area allowed search efforts to continue as planned, said spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman.
"The majority of the search area is being covered, but not 100 percent due to weather," she said from her office in King Salmon, Alaska.
More than 41,000 air miles have been flown by dozens of aircraft since August 21 in the search for the plane that was to carry three Park Service employees -- Mason McLeod, 26, Neal Spradlin, 28, and Seth Spradlin, 20, along with pilot Marco Alletto, 47, -- on a 250-to-260-mile flight from Swikshak Lagoon on the park's eastern shores along Shelikof Strait back west to park headquarters at King Salmon.
While the bulk of the search has been conducted from the air, ground teams also have been sent in whenever spotters thought they spied something.
"Every time we have any kind of a lead, we put an investigative team out there, unless it’s really obvious," said Ms. Freeman. "There was a report at one point of some debris floating -- the debris itself was identified as not related to this incident -- but because of that we also have ground searches along the shoreline.”
One particular stretch of beach that's been covered on foot due to tidal flows that historically have carried debris to shore is along Hallo Bay, which is just south of Swikshak Bay, said the spokeswoman.
As the search moved into its 11th day Tuesday, the cost of the multi-agency effort was closing in on $1 million. A rough estimate put the Park Service's expenses at $299,000, while the total cost of the search, including that of the military, was estimated at $941,000, said Ms. Freeman.
The multi-agency effort includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alaska Air National Guard, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of the Interior Aviation Management Directorate, Federal Aviation Administration, and National Transportation Safety Board, as well as local air taxi operators and others.