Updated: Improving Weather Aids in Search for Missing Plane at Katmai National Park

These photos reflect the quickly changing weather over Katmai. The top aerial photo was taken Sunday in the search area south of Spectacle Lake. The bottom photo was shot Monday by Hallo Bay. Top photo by SAR volunteer Dale Peters, bottom photo by Nick Thompson, NPS.

Though good weather returned to Katmai National Park and Preserve on Monday, searchers again failed to detect any trace of a single-engine plane that vanished nine days ago on a flight to retrieve a work crew from a remote shore.

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 -- from Swikshak Lagoon on the park's eastern shores along Shelikof Strait back west to park headquarters at King Salmon.

While improved weather over the past several days has allowed aircraft to cover some remaining search areas and to search some areas again, no sign of the plane or passengers has yet been reported, park officials said Monday evening.

Still, officials remained optimistic of a positive outcome, noting that all four were "skilled, tough, and prepared to survive in this environment."

"One soloed the Moose’s Tooth, a multi-day technical rock and ice climbing route in Denali National park this past spring," noted Katmai Superintendent Ralph Moore. "At this point, with good weather holding, we are still hopeful of a positive outcome.”

Planes entering the search area with the onset of hunting season were being advised to be on the lookout for aircraft involved in the search effort.

The searching, which has put at least 10 aircraft over the 4.7-million-acre park daily, has been conducted by a mix of contracted Department of Interior aircraft along with volunteer aircraft and aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard, US Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and Alaska State Troopers.

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.

Search officials asked that anyone who was monitoring radio traffic or heard a signal from an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) on 121.5 MHz between August 21 and Monday around the Katmai/Kodiak area contact park dispatch at 907-246-3305. Visitors and staff who were in the Katmai/Kenai area during that time period were also asked to contact authorities whether or not they saw any evidence of an aircraft. Doing so can help determine where searchers should focus their efforts.

Information about progress on the search is available on the park website, and a 3-dimensional map of the park is available at this link.

Comments

Its frustrating to see this plane has not been found. The question is why it was not equipped with the new 406b ELT that is actively monitored and the old 121.5 ELT is no longer monitored unless there is a known aircraft missing. The new 406b ELT signal narrows a search area much smaller than the one they are now doing.

Its true that Senator Stevens plane was equipped with the new 406b ELT that was activated but the antenna cable became unattached. This may be what happened in this case. ELTs wont emit a signal if the plane is upside down with the antenna pointing in the ground, destroyed in a fire, underwater or the batteries are dead. They can be manually activated as well as G force (impact).

This case is more personal as my brother and I operate an air taxi that goes into Katmai Park. My brother was the last pilot that flew Neal to Swikshak before he disappeared. We operate with the new 406b ELTs, Satellite Phone equipped in portable shock, water proof containers, Marine VHF radio and a spot tracker. Our dispatch can see our automatic updated position by GPS every 10 to 15 minutes on a computer map at our office. The spot is affordable at 300.00 per plane.

I am holding out hope that if not found that sooner or later someone is discovered walking out. Its happened many times before in Alaska and certainly is an outcome especially with the survival experience of those now missing.

It's all about money and who is on board! I wonder why Sen. Ted Stevens was flying on a plane not participating in the Medallion Foundation Program (said with extreme sarcasm)

Neal is very capable of handling the extreme conditions that they might be facing, there was also a lot of supply on the plane. I know that if the plane went down survivable, then they are going to be found. I am grateful to all those concentrating their efforts to try and find these guys and look forward to their safe rescue.

Thank you for the updates. As a friend of Mason it is very had to keep waiting for these men to be found. Without the updates it would be maddening. If these guys survived the apparent crash I know they are still alive just waiting to be found. A million thanks to the men and women involved with the search. Your skill and dedication is much appreciated by the friends and family of these lost men. Come home soon guys.

Can someone who knows life/airplanes in this area of the world explain to me why more precautions aren't taken when flying people around? If getting around in airplanes in Alaska is so prevalent aren't FAA safety rules mandated? Aren't these commercial airplane companies? Don't they have to have satellite phones, flares, charged black boxes, excellent safety records, up to date and well-maintained equipment and planes... etc? I don't get it and am a worried relative of the missing. If there's a drizzle planes are delayed where I live--life is too precious and 1 mistake too catastropic to risk flying any other way.

Myself and three girl friends flew with the pilot of this plane from King Salmon to Becharof Lodge at the Rapids on July 30 and returning to King Salmon with him on August 5th. This has hit home to all of us tremendously beings we just flew with him in this plane and I personally have flown with him the same route two years ago. My heart goes out to all of the relatives and friends of the missing and pray for all of their safe return. We also send out a ton of thanks to the men and women involved in this search, we know you will bring them home.