Nearly a month has passed since a single-wing float plane with four on board vanished over Katmai National Park and Preserve. While the official search has been scaled back, private efforts are continuing to locate the aircraft.
A reward of $65,000 has been offered to those who find the aircraft, which was carrying three National Park Service employees.
The Park Service employees -- Mason McLeod and brothers Neal and Seth Spradlin -- had been working to tear down a deteriorating patrol cabin at Swikshak on the park's eastern coastline and were headed back to King Salmon when the plane piloted by Marco Alletto vanished on August 21. Another plane that departed the area 15 minutes later never received a transmission from Mr. Alletto. Weather conditions were so poor, that the second plane flew only about 500 feet above ground on the way back to King Salmon.
The terrain, which in Katmai ranges from flat willow bottoms and swift rivers to vast expanses of heavy timber and glaciers, made the searchers' job a difficult one, as some areas could "swallow" a plane without sign, according to Park Service officials.
On Friday, the plane's owners, Van and Donna Hartley of Branch River Air Service, and their employees extended their "deepest sympathies and prayers to the families and friends of the occupants of Beaver N9313Z, passengers Neal Spradlin, Seth Spradlin, Mason McLeod and our pilot, Marco Alletto."
"It has been our sincerest hope and prayers that this aircraft would be found with its occupants safe, sound and secure," the Hartleys said. "This search has been epic and heroic in its passion and tenacity. Our deepest respects and thanks to all persons and agencies involved in this organized effort to find our missing plane and its occupants, Marco, Neal, Seth and Mason."
While the Park Service has scaled back its massive search for the aircraft, private pilots have been asked to keep an eye out for the missing plane in their travels.
"There has been a reward offered for finding the aircraft, and a fuel fund is being implemented to aid pilots in the search," the Hartleys said. "If the aircraft is located, please notify the Katmai National Park office at 907-246-3305, and Alaska State Troopers at 907-246-3346. Thank you to all who have contributed to, and continue in, this search effort."