Cost of Search for Missing Plane Over Katmai National Park and Preserve Approaching $1 Million

While most of the hunt for a missing plane over Katmai National Park has been done from the air, at times planes have landed in places such as Hallo Bay so their shorelines could be searched for debris. NPS photo of Hallo Bay by Nick Thompson, NPS.

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.

Comments

Does anyone know the cost of the 406b emergency locator transmittor that was previously mentioned? Also, I found this device for $113 (http://www.gps-planet.com/spsameemlo.html). It is mind boggling that these planes can take off without state of the art emergency locators. I don't understand at all.

God bless all of the people involved in the search efforts.

A new 406b costs around 1200 dollars before install. They are the main locator beacon being monitored after Feb 1st 2009. The old 121.5 series are not monitored, should a plane go down with one of those no one would know until its reported missing by someone that knew of the flight plan. With the 406b ELT the aircraft identity , owner and emergency contact number is known by emergency services almost immediately after its activated. The search time is about 3 to 4 hours with the new 406b where as the old 121.5 is 12 plus hours and thats with an activated signal.

All commercial operators have been informed of the current non monitoring of the 121.5 ELTs the ones that choose not to spend the money on them is simply a gamble that they wont need its services. Private operators its understandable that they cant afford the new ELTs. The government should have just given the private owners a tax credit or something so they can go buy them and related safety equipment, rather than spend a million dollars looking for a plane without one.

Correction: The 406b ELT is the ONLY beacon that is now monitored by Satellite.

Any aircraft emergency locator transmitter whether old or new is only designed to withstand so much. It will fail in a high energy crash more often than not, but the occupants are not likely to survive such an accident anyhow. The solution to prevent it being destroyed by fire after the accident, or the signal being obscured by the destruction of the antenna or from the aircraft sinking under water is to carry an alternate method of signalling for help, such as a personal locator beacon in your pocket which works similarly to an ELT (except there is no "g-switch") satellite or cell phone, handheld aviation band radio, etc.

I am not insinuating that any of these situations is behind the current sad story, but it is something to consider when having these discussions. Possessing a properly operating and installed ELT is just using one of many tools in ensuring you can survive an accident. A 406mhz ELT is better than the previous model but it isn't a panacea. You don't carry just one match into the wilderness.

Thank you to all the residents, park employees and everyone searching for my nephews Neil and Seth, Mason and Marco . Our family sincerely appreciates all of your kindness, efforts, and caring help in these horrible times. God will reward you, and our family will always have nothing but wonderful thoughts about each of you. We are really blessed to have you in our lives.

We want to say "Thank you" to all the SAR teams, park employees, and anyone searching for these 4 precious men. We have known the Spradlin Family for over 16 years and know of their humbling appreciation for all your efforts, time, and money spent on finding these men alive, healthy, and of sound mind. Thank you for your faith in God to continue searching day by day until they are found; for it is by this faith alone, that is keeping you going. May God give you strength and endurance and the eyes to see like you've never seen before. God Bless you ALL! Sabrena

We want to say "Thank you" to all the SAR teams, park employees, and anyone still searching for these 4 young men. I have only recently met Marco through his girlfriend and good friend of mine Fa in Phuket Thailand and we are, like the rest of you hoping and praying these men are found alive, healthy and very soon. Fa prays to Buddha for their safe journey home, praise be to God that he is watching over them and sends them back to their families and loved one soon. xx

I can tell you that there is a LOT of effort going into this search. My boyfriend is one of the people on the boat as we speak searching. They are in the middle of the ocean in rough weather/waves getting ill and all...doing what they can to find that plane! My sympathies to all loved ones involved.