Update: Small plane still missing off Yakutat

Update: Sept. 24, 2013 – 6:17 a.m.

The search for Alan Foster has been called off.

Updated story on September 12, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.

Rescuers say they haven’t given up on finding a missing small plane despite poor weather that has hampered recent search efforts.

The Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center is dispatching an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to fly over the Malaspina Glacier area on Thursday.

A Coast Guard H-60 helicopter based in Cordova is returning to the scene.

Six Civil Air Patrol aircraft from Anchorage, Kenai, and Valdez will also search during Thursday’s break in the weather.

We’re putting a 100-percent of our search and rescue efforts into finding this downed aircraft. We have no plans of calling off the search as of right now.”

Lt. Bernie Kale, spokesman for the Alaska National Guard, said the C-130 will fly at a higher altitude and listen for any potential electronic signals or communications from the pilot.

The issue is that there is no registered ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) beacon associated with the aircraft. That increases the potential search area by hundreds of square miles. So, they are still searching where the last known radar contact was with the aircraft. They just have to do a wider swath of area.”

The last reported position of the single-engine Piper PA-32 was about 42 miles west of Yakutat near Malaspina Glacier. Only the pilot, identified as 47-year old Alan Foster of Eagle River, was reported on board.



Updated story on September 12, 2013 at 6:53 a.m.

From the Associated Press –

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center says the search for an airplane missing since Monday is being hampered by bad weather and the pilot’s lack of an emergency beacon.

The search for a Piper PA-32 Cherokee piloted by Alan Foster has focused on the area around the Malaspina Glacier near Yakutat.

Foster landed Monday afternoon in Yakutat, refueled and took off for Anchorage.

The airplane was lost from radar tracking at about 4 p.m.

Searchers so far have tried to retrace Foster’s flight path.

The Anchorage Daily News reports search planes and crews are assembling near the search area.

The Rescue Coordination Center is organizing the search with the Alaska Air National Guard, the Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers and the Civil Air Patrol.



Updated story on September 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

The search for a missing small plane is on hold as the lead agency in the effort determines the next course of action.

A single-engine Piper PA-32, en route from Yakutat to Anchorage, disappeared from radar on Monday afternoon while it was about 42 miles west of Yakutat.

A Coast Guard H-60 helicopter flew four sorties totaling about 14.3 hours of flight time on Tuesday. Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Leuchte at the Command Center in Juneau said the chopper crew made “numerous passes all over (Malaspina) Glacier,” but nothing was found. The helicopter has returned to its temporary summer base in Cordova.

Leuchte said on Wednesday morning that they’re in a holding pattern and waiting for direction from the Air Force and the Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage on what to do next. The Air Force had also planned to dispatch a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft to help with the search on Tuesday.

Watchstanders at the Rescue Coordination Center declined to comment on Tuesday evening about search efforts, and public affairs officials have not returned calls seeking more information.



Updated story on September 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Still nothing found in the search of a small plane and its pilot missing somewhere in the Gulf of Alaska. Searchers have not even picked up any potential signals from an emergency locator transmitter.

The Air Force, the lead agency for the search, is dispatching an H-60 helicopter to look in an area about 42 miles west of Yakutat. That’s where the radar trace ended Monday afternoon for the single engine Piper PA-32 aircraft.

The pilot has been identified as 47-year old Alan Foster of Eagle River.

An Air Force C-130 aircraft and a Coast Guard H-60 helicopter started searching Monday evening.



Original story on September 10, 2013 at 6:32 am

The Air Force and the Coast Guard continue looking for a plane that went missing on Monday in the Gulf of Alaska.

The blue and white Piper PA-32 was heading from Yakutat to Merrill Field in Anchorage with one person on board.

The plane was about 42 miles west of Yakutat when it dropped off radar just after 4 o’clock Monday afternoon.

The aircraft was reported overdue about 7 p.m. by the mother of the pilot, identified as 47-year old Alan Foster of Eagle River.

Petty Officer Mark Leuchte of the Coast Guard Command Center in Juneau said an H-60 helicopter with an Air Force pararescue jumper on board did four shoreline searches between Icy Bay and Yakutat on Monday evening.

The H-60, currently based in Cordova, was forced to spend the night in Yakutat because of inclement weather.

An Air Force C-130 was expected to join the search at first light on Tuesday.

Weather in the area was described as raining, 40 knot winds, three-quarter mile visibility, and ceiling of only about 300 feet.

According to the FAA’s online registry database, the aircraft with tail number N3705W is 47 years old and is currently owned by David Pitts of Canton, Georgia.



(Editor’s note: Spelling of last name of Coast Guardsman in original story has been corrected.)

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