Eagle River, Alaska — The Alaska Air National Guard continues their search for a pilot and downed aircraft in Lake Clark National Park, which began at about 10:25 p.m. last night after the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center received indication of an aircraft 406 Beacon activation.
Last night’s search efforts for the missing pilot and Pilatus Porter turbo prop aircraft ended early due to very poor weather and visibility, and began this morning at first light. The search continued throughout the day, despite challenging weather conditions. The search team will continue their efforts Sunday morning.
Controllers at the RCC received the emergency locator transmitter distress signal at about 6:30 p.m. Friday night, but coordinates did not immediately transmit. Controllers used registration information logged with the transmitter to make phone calls to numbers that were registered with the ELT. They were able to reach a family member at approximately 7:30 p.m. who was presently at Lake Clark Lodge. The family member confirmed that the pilot who the 406 Beacon was registered to had departed Lake Hood in Anchorage that evening en route to Lake Clark Lodge to deliver fuel.
At about 7:30 p.m., the RCC began to receive coordinates for the beacon, which indicated an approximate 10- to 25-mile radius for the aircraft location, which is within Lake Clark National Park.
The RCC contacted the National Park Service to inform them that there was an emergency locator transmittal indicating its location within the NPS area of responsibility and asked the NPS if they wanted RCC assistance, which was accepted.
The RCC contacted the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing rescue squadrons to request assistance and they accepted the mission, although more accurate search coordinates were still pending.
At approximately 9:45 p.m., the Civil Air Patrol’s National Radar Analysis Team provided a more detailed analysis to assist with the search coordinates, allowing the search teams to plan more effectively for their mission.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and aircrew from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th Rescue Squadron, along with two pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, departed JBER at approximately 10:25 p.m. Friday evening after crew assembled and planned their mission.
The team encountered poor weather in Merrill Pass, approximately 90 miles west of Anchorage. They attempted to reach the site twice that evening, but were turned around due to poor visibility and weather. They returned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, arriving at midnight, with plans to resume the search Saturday morning at first light.
The search and rescue team departed this morning and arrived in the search area, encountering a low cloud ceiling, snow and very poor visibility. Steep, rugged terrain and poor weather continued to be an issue throughout the day. The high-elevation mountain peaks were covered by clouds, contributing to the challenging search.
An HC-130 King aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 211th Rescue Squadron joined the search at approximately 1 p.m. this afternoon, refueling the Pave Hawk, and crews from both aircraft continued their search throughout the day. They returned to base at approximately 6:30 p.m. due to worsening conditions.
The NPS is acting as a liaison with the family while there are still unknowns and the search continues. Please direct any questions about the pilot, family information, or conditions in the park to John Quinley at the National Park Service. He may be contacted at email@example.com or 907-444-1336.