Search still on for missing plane in SW Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ANCHORAGE - About 10 aircraft were out Tuesday searching for a small plane carrying a pilot and three National Park Service employees who disappeared four days ago in Katmai National Park and Preserve, a park spokesman said.

There has been no sign of the plane since it was reported missing Saturday afternoon in the 4-million-acre park in Alaska. The weather at the time was not good, with strong winds and low clouds. There also has been no radio or emergency locator transmitter transmissions received from the plane.

The DeHavilland Beaver piloted by Marco Alletto, 47, of King Salmon, was carrying Mason McLeod, 26, from Jacksonville, Fla., and brothers Neal Spradlin, 28, and Seth Spradlin, 20, who grew up in Westfield, Ind., but now spend at least part of their time in Alaska.

The park employees were preparing Saturday to rebuild an old ranger station.

Four helicopters and six fixed-wing aircraft took part in Monday's search.

National Park Service spokesman John Quinley said about the same number of aircraft were out searching Tuesday. The first aircraft, a helicopter, reached the search area at about 9 a.m. and focused on the southern end of the park and coastline areas.

There was some fog early Monday but it was burning off, Quinley said.

"The expectation is that they will have pretty good weather today," he said.

The search was expected to continue until about 10 p.m., he said.

Aircraft focused on several river valleys that drain into Kamishak Bay on the park's northern boundary. This is the area of river drainages and low passes that Alletto might have flown on Saturday when the weather worsened on the way to King Salmon, 285 miles southwest of Anchorage, after leaving Swikshak Lagoon.

A second plane owned by the same company, Branch River Air Service, left the lagoon 15 minutes after the missing plane and made it to King Salmon in about an hour. However, it had to fly much of the way at just 500 feet above the ground because of the weather.

Quinley said search planes have flown more than 8,000 mile since Saturday and searched 3,600 square miles. The primary search area is more than 4,000 square miles.

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