An approaching low front that was spreading clouds and rain across Katmai National Park and Preserve was hampering search efforts Friday for a missing plane and its four occupants.
With dropping ceilings and reduced visibility moving in from the west, Friday's search was expected to be concentrated on eastern areas of the flight paths the pilot of the single-engine float plane might have taken.
"If conditions allow, this morning helicopters will initiate searching, and also assess the areas to the east for favorable flight weather for fixed wing aircraft. Focus will be on the eastern coast due to the expected weather patterns. Other areas in the established search grid will be flown if conditions improve," park officials said.
The efforts so far have involved aircraft crisscrossing an estimated 10,000 square miles of ground area and more than 17,500 air miles.
Despite that intense effort, so far there has been no sign of, and no signal from, the maroon de Havilland Beaver with white stripes (tail number N9313Z) since it left Swikshak Lagoon early Saturday afternoon for the park headquarters at King Salmon to the west with the pilot and three Park Service maintenance workers. The three -- Mason McLeod, 26, and brothers Neal and Seth Spradlin -- had been tearing down the old Swikshak patrol cabin to make way for a new cabin. Piloting the plane was Marco Alletto.
Park Service officials have said the terrain being covered contains a mix of vegetation, from alders, willows and low-lying brush along the coastline to thicker woodlands inland and even barren alpine terrain up higher. Some of the vegetation was thick enough that it theoretically could "swallow" the plane, they said.