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