As searchers continued to come up empty in their efforts to find a small plane with four occupants aboard that vanished on a flight from Katmai National Park and Preserve, officials Wednesday reoriented the searching to a more typical grid pattern.
While the first four days of the search had sent planes aloft with orders to follow all routes that the missing plane most likely would have followed from Swikshak Lagoon to King Salmon, Alaska, on Wednesday the decision was made to move to a grid pattern based on air miles rather than terrain, park officials said.
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 with the pilot and three National 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.
The NPS Alaska Incident Management Team, lead by Incident Commander Richard Moore, is assisting Katmai National Park by managing the search efforts for the missing aircraft.
During the first four days of searching, resources focused on all recognized low-elevation passes, both to north and south directions, park officials said in explaining the change in strategy. Operations now are moving to a broader saturation model, based on a grid defined by air miles, rather than terrain. This methodical path of using a grid system is based on the same method used by the Civil Air Patrol and will cover all areas regardless of geographical features, they added.
The U.S. Coast Guard continues to search the coast and the Civil Air Patrol is working on the northern search areas.
Eight dedicated incident aircraft, (three helicopters and five fixed wing) along with three volunteer aircraft and aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard, US Coast Guard and the Civil Air Patrol will participate in the search, with additional aircraft arriving late today. 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, as well as local private operators.
Due to safety and communication concerns, pilots are asked to contact Katmai National Park, at 907-246-3305 to coordinate any search efforts.