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Thread: Katmai Search Update

  1. #1
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    Default Katmai Search Update

    All: This news release went out at about 1100 today. We will update again this afternoon. A link is at the bottom to the Katmai web page. This afternoon we will post a cumulative GPS track map for the DOI search aircraft. Military aircraft support is not yet pictured, but has been substantial along the Katmai coast and Cape Douglas headlands area. If you are offering aircraft search assistance, please contact the SAR management team at 246-3305; it's big country out there, and we want to maintain a measure of traffic control for everyone's safety. Thank you, John Quinley -- NPS Public Affairs

    Good weather continued to hold over most of Katmai National Park and Preserve this morning as search aircraft and crews began their fourth day of looking for a missing aircraft with four men on board.

    Air crews today hope to fly over a relatively few areas which have not been searched, and return to other areas to check again for any sign of the plane. Since the incident began Saturday afternoon, aircraft have cumulatively flown search tracks totaling more than 8,000 miles, said Katmai NP Superintendent Ralph Moore. Assuming spotters and pilots were able to carefully search within a half-mile on either side of their flight paths, more than 3,600 square miles has been covered, he said. The search area is more than 4,000 square miles.

    The single engine floatplane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon, carried the pilot and three National Park Service maintenance employees and has been missing since Saturday afternoon. The missing employees are Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers, Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20. The pilot is Marco Alletto, 47, from King Salmon.

    After poor weather on Saturday and Sunday, search crews had clear skies and excellent visibility on Monday. Similar weather is forecast today.

    Up to 10 aircraft will participate in the search today. The multi-agency effort includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Air National Guard, Egli Air Haul, and Branch River Air. Other air taxi operators taking clients to the area have also informally joined the search. The National Park Service has a regional incident management team in place at the park’s King Salmon headquarters to assist the park coordinate the search.

    This morning’s search effort began with a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 flying routes on the southern side of Katmai, near Becharof Lake. Although it is a significant distance from the expected flight path of the missing plane, it is low country that could have provided a route toward King Salmon during the poor weather on Saturday afternoon.
    The search began late Saturday afternoon after the Beaver failed to return to King Salmon. Two planes owned by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon flew to Swikshak Lagoon on Saturday to pick up an NPS maintenance crew working there preparing for the replacement of an old ranger patrol cabin. Three people were picked up by the Beaver at 1:45 p.m., and a second plane left Swikshak 15 minutes later. The second plane, with two employees and pilot on board, returned safely but had to fly much of the way 500 feet above ground level due to deteriorating weather conditions.

    An emergency response was initiated through the Rescue Coordination Center on Saturday afternoon. There has been no indication of emergency locator transmitter transmissions and no evidence of any radio distress calls.

    Katmai N.P is about 300 miles southwest of Anchorage.

    # NPS #

    Editors: Photos, maps and other search information is on-line at http://www.nps.gov/katm/parknews/newsreleases.htm

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Glad to hear they are out there in force trying to find these guys!!

    This and other instances have me thinking. It seems like a good idea to keep a SPOT turned on and tracking at all times while flying around AK (or anywhere remote for that matter) With the every 15 minute locator updates it sure would narrow down search areas! I am dead set on getting a sat phone but if I did much flying and definitely if I were a pilot the annual fee for the spot tracking would be money well spent!! Has anyone used the SPOT in a plane yet?

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    Marco has a SPOT mounted in a bracket on the dash.

    He also carries a Sat Phone in a pelican behind his seat.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
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    Hmm, so I am guessing that it either wasn't on or didn't work as I would think they would have a much smaller search radius if they had a last position on him. Sounds like he was as prepared as he could be sure hope they are found ok!

    It may be worthwhile for the state or feds to subsidize sat internet for ham radio operators if they set up an igate on it. Would still be limited in the mountains but with constant (every 15sec) position updates with heading and altitude the radio based tracking system from http://www.byonics.com/microtrak/mt-rtg.php may be a better solution. Certainly the two in concert would provide the a pretty decent safety net. I am not sure if they are currently doing anything like this or not...

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    Premium Member MarineHawk's Avatar
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    Is this stuff true?:

    Missing Alaska pilot has crash history
    Jill Burke | Aug 25, 2010
    The pilot missing for four days now along with three National Park Service employees in rugged terrain in Western Alaska has a history of questionable judgment calls, according to a lawsuit filed in Anchorage in 2009. Marco Alletto and his employer, Branch River Air Services, are in the process of being sued by a group of bear hunters who say the Italian-born pilot crashed not once, but twice during the same trip and, along the way, refused to call for help.

    A call to Alletto's attorney on Tuesday was not immediately returned.
    He was reported to be traveling from Anchorage to Oregon.

    The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Alletto -- Jerry Bagneschi, his 12-year-old grandson, and two of Bagneschi's friends -- had hired Branch River Air to fly them to an area near Puale Bay in Sept. 2007, according to the complaint. An unidentified Branch Air pilot flew them in. Alletto was the pilot sent to retrieve them a week later on Oct. 7.

    What the hunters didn't know, according to their lawsuit, is that Branch Air was sending in to get them a pilot who had only weeks earlier completed a Federal Aviation Administration mandated re-examination. The federal action required that after finding Alletto at fault for a crash in August at Crosswind Lake, 60 miles northwest of King Salmon. Alletto, in that case, attempted to back-taxi in rough conditions after dropping off passengers. A wind gust upended one wing, forcing the other to cut through the water and strike the bottom of the shallow lake. The FAA deemed Alletto had "demonstrated questionable aeronautical decision making," according to the complaint.

    Sixteen days after the FAA re-exam, according to the lawsuit, Alletto was trying to take off with the four hunters from a soft, rain-soaked runway despite warnings it would be problematic to do so. Here is the hunters' version of what happened next.

    Alletto tried to throttle the plane through the soft mud, causing the tail to go airborne. The still spinning propeller then hit the ground and the plane came to a stop. The group worked two hours to dig the plane out of the mud. Afterward, Alletto said he would be unable to continue on, citing FAA rules banning the transport of passengers in the damaged plane. The pilot, however, later changed his mind, deciding he would either obtain a replacement propeller or transport the hunters on a different plane. But in the end, to the hunters' dismay, Alletto attempted to fix the bent propeller blades himself.

    "Marco Alletto found a medium sized rock and beat on the ends of the propeller. Marco Alletto pounded on the blades of the propeller over and over again, until Marco Alletto was convinced that the propeller blades were somewhat straight," states the lawsuit, which goes on to describe how Alletto also used a pocket knife to shave off any rough edges on the blades.

    Alletto then climbed into the Beaver, fired up the engine, revved the prop and, noticing no "unusual vibrations," deemed the plane airworthy. This time, however, he planned to lighten the plane's load and stated he would only take two passengers at a time. The plan was to ferry them in two groups to a runway adjacent to a nearby lake, and then, from the new take-off location, carry all four men on to King Salmon.

    Hunters Jeffrey Rutledge and 12-year-old Zecaraiah Robinson were loaded along with some of the gear and off they went in the plane. But the landing at nearby Becharoff Lake didn't go well. Alletto, according to court records, "ground-looped" the Beaver and cart-wheeled the plane, leaving his passengers trapped in their seatbelts as he kicked and swore at the aircraft. Neither Rutledge nor Robinson saw Alletto activate the emergency locator beacon. The hunters believe it was because he wanted to cover up the accident, worried about another FAA finding of negligence.

    According to the lawsuit, Alletto also told Rutledge not to call for help on the radio, and said that it was of no use attempting to call Alaska State Troopers because the mountains would block the signal.

    "Marco Alletto refused to use the radio to call for help on the emergency frequency," according to the hunters.

    When a good Samaritan flying past noticed the crash and landed, the passengers asked if he could take them out. Although Rutledge was in pain - his neck, knee and back hurt badly - he wasn't in need of immediate medical attention, and so the other pilot chose to continue on his way. He had hunters to pick up himself, he said, but promised to radio for help from the air. Alletto, at this point allegedly told the pilot that Rutledge was claiming to be hurt merely to get an insurance payout.

    But the hunter says that wasn't the case. Rutledge was seriously injured, according to his attorney Bob Stone. And the 12-year-old was both hurt and frightened.

    The pilot who stopped at the crash scene did radio for help, and an hour and a half later a second plane from Branch River Air Services arrived. It took the two at Becharof Lake to King Salmon. But no one went back for the other hunters. They were left overnight wondering what happened. They were finally rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and, according to the complaint, had to charter a second air taxi to retrieve their gear.

    The group claims Branch River did not refund any money, pay medical bills or cover other expenses the group incurred as a result of the crashes.

    Rutledge and Bagneshci settled out of court with Branch River and Alletto this summer, according to Stone. But Robinson's case appears headed for trial next year.

    For reasons unknown, Alletto's first crash with the hunters - when the drove the airplane's propeller into the ground on an attempted take off -- appears to never have been reported to the authorities. The second crash that day - the one in which the plane cart wheeled - was reported. According to the subsequent National Transportation Safety Board investigation, pilot error was to blame. The NTSB cited the pilot's "inadequate compensation for gusty wind conditions" as the probably cause in both the August and the October accidents.

    According to the lawsuit, Alletto's boss and owner of the air-taxi company, George Hartley, told an FAA inspector two days after the crash "that his pilots were not as proficient in land operations as they might and could be."

    Hartley is also quoted as saying Alletto "strikes him as being too driven to complete a task" and that "he possibly fails to fully consider how his pilot decision might affect any event outcome."

    "It's one thing to make bad decisions when you are a private pilot," Stone said Tuesday. "But you have a greater expectation of safety when you fly with a commercial operation."

    "He [Alletto] had a history of bad decisions," the attorney said, noting that as both a certified pilot and an airframe mechanic, Alletto should have been keenly aware of operating rules, safety regulations and reporting requirements.

    In their written response to the allegations, Alletto and his employer disagree with the hunters' version of events, including the characterization of the August incident as a crash and whether the bear hunters were injured, and have denied any wrongdoing.

    The search for Alletto and the three park service employees missing with him is to continue tomorrow. Their plane is known to have gone down in bad weather, but there remains hope that it might have safely landed somewhere or successfully crash landed without killing the people aboard. Many have survived crash landings in small planes in Alaska.

    Contact Jill Burke at jill@alaskadispatch.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    http://www.alaskadispatch.com/dispat...-crash-history

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    Glad to hear they are out there in force trying to find these guys!!

    This and other instances have me thinking. It seems like a good idea to keep a SPOT turned on and tracking at all times while flying around AK (or anywhere remote for that matter) With the every 15 minute locator updates it sure would narrow down search areas! I am dead set on getting a sat phone but if I did much flying and definitely if I were a pilot the annual fee for the spot tracking would be money well spent!! Has anyone used the SPOT in a plane yet?
    Yes, I use my SPOT all the time in my planes and have never had an issue with it failing to report my message or position!

  7. #7

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    Spot should be a standard accessory for every flight bag - private or commercial. At about $150 for the unit, and another $150/yr for full service, this is one of the cheapest insurance policies you can get. I use mine on all my flights and my wife loves it. She knows exactly where I am within 10-15 minutes. As long as she sees movement, she knows everything is ok. Unplanned benefit: she also can get dinner started and time it so it's ready when I show up, based on how far I am from returning home. I also believe it's possible to tie your spot tracking number into an FAA flight plan so that if you don't have a loved one keeping an eye on you, the FAA will know pretty much right where you are. I know most professional pilots would consider this a burden, but I bet anyone who has "gone missing" and then later were rescued, would love to have one of these in retrospect.

    ...not to mention the safety added to all the searchers looking for you. Instead of searching 4000 square miles, they might only have to search 100 square miles. Not a big deal with 1 or 2 planes and a couple hours flying. If I ever crashed, I'd hate to put a few dozen other folks safety on the line because I made a poor decision.

  8. #8

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    For Immediate Release
    August 28, 2010
    Contact:
    Kathleen Kavalok or Adrienne Freeman, 907-246-2104; Kathleen_Kavalok@nps.gov, Adrienne_Freeman@nps.gov
    Search Resumes Today For Missing Floatplane

    King Salmon, AK. The search continues today for a missing floatplane in Katmai National Park and Preserve after inclement weather grounded Friday's operations for most of the day. Searchers are concentrating today on completing aerial grid searches and targeting areas where the plane may have disappeared. The single engine floatplane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon with the pilot and three National Park Service maintenance employees has been missing since Saturday, August 21, 2010. The missing employees are Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers-- Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20. The pilot is Marco Alletto, 47, from King Salmon. In an unrelated incident, searchers already in place were able to respond at approximately 7pm to the report of a fisherman who had been separated from his group in the American Creek area of the park. The fisherman was picked up and safely reunited with his group after a brief search by a National Park Service helicopter.

    Dedicated and contracted Department of Interior aircraft, along with volunteer aircraft and aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard, US Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and the Alaska State Troopers have participated in the search. 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.

    As in all park operations, the safety of searchers and the public is the top priority. Inclement weather, limited visibility, and rough and varied terrain throughout the 14,000 square mile search area contribute to the complexity of the search. Anyone who was monitoring radio traffic or heard a signal from an Emergency Locator Transmittor (ELT) on 121.5 MHz between August 21 and today around the Katmai/Kodiak area is asked to contact Park Dispatch at 907-246-3305. Additionally, visitors and staff who were in the Katmai/Kenai area during that time period are 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.

  9. #9

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    Alaska National Parks News Release
    Release:
    August 29, 2010
    Contact: Kathleen Kavalok or Adrienne Freeman, 907-246-2104; Kathleen_Kavalok@nps.gov, Adrienne_freeman@nps.gov,


    Weather Holds for Searchers in Katmai National Park and Preserve

    King Salmon, AK. Good visibility and clearing weather helped searchers today in the ongoing effort to find the single engine floatplane carrying NPS employees Mason McLeod, 26, Neal Spradlin, 28, and Seth Spradlin, 20, and pilot Marco Alletto which has been missing since August 21, 2010. Five helicopters and five fixed wing aircraft, including two volunteers, were able to complete both grid and targeted missions within the 14,000 square mile search area. A similar number are expected to search tomorrow.

    Ralph Moore, Superintendent of Katmai National Park and Preserve said today, "All four of these individuals are 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. 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 are advised to be on the lookout for aircraft involved in the search effort. A minimum of ten aircraft will be in the search area daily.

    Dedicated and 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 have participated in the search. 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.


    As in all park operations, the safety of searchers and the public is the top priority. Inclement weather, limited visibility, and rough and varied terrain throughout the 14,000 square mile search area contribute to the complexity of the search. Anyone who was monitoring radio traffic or heard a signal from an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on 121.5 MHz between August 21 and today around the Katmai/Kodiak area is asked to contact Park Dispatch at 907-246-3305. Additionally, visitors and staff who were in the Katmai/Kenai area during that time period are 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.


    For more information, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/katm for updated information. A 3-dimensional map is also available on the page at http://www.shadedrelief.com/tom/katm_pano.jpg


  10. #10

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    National Park Service Scales Back Search for Missing Floatplane

    The National Park Service announced today that beginning Saturday, September 4, 2010 it will significantly scale back the search for the missing floatplane carrying employees Mason McLeod, brothers Neal and Seth Spradlin, and pilot Marco Alletto. The floatplane disappeared on August 21, 2010 after taking off from Swikshak Bay in Katmai National Park and Preserve. No sign of the floatplane or missing men has been reported since.

    "We have logged almost 60,000 flight miles over the past two weeks. Despite an exhaustive effort on the part of the park, the incident management team, and others, we have found no leads. We are scaling back our efforts in part to reduce risk to those participating in this complex operation," said Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica.

    Katmai National Park and Preserve Superintendent Ralph Moore said today, "All of us here at Katmai National Park, and in the communities of Naknek and King Salmon, are devastated by this tragic incident. To lose such fine people hurts deeply. Our hearts go out to the families of Neal, Seth, and Mason and to our friends at Branch River Air."

    The National Park Service is grateful for the invaluable support of volunteer aircraft, agency aircraft, and pilot time that assisted with the search. The multi-agency effort included the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alaska Air National Guard, Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Fire Service, U.S. Coast Guard, the Civil Air Patrol, 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.

    The National Park Service will continue limited searching with regular park patrols and other resources. All pilots flying over the park are encouraged to observe and report any leads as well.



  11. #11
    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    This is a sad state of affair. Make you wonder how it possible for a plane that size to just disappear. Maybe some type of water landing? My prayers go out to the family members of the missing.

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    Likely the water part is right. Landing would not be the right word tho. Something will show up eventually.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tboehm View Post
    This is a sad state of affair. Make you wonder how it possible for a plane that size to just disappear. Maybe some type of water landing? My prayers go out to the family members of the missing.
    Don't you recall the B-29 that disappeared on short final to Elmendorf AFB in 1949? During a very low tide, Ward Gay, just departing Lake Hood, saw the big red tail sticking up from the Cook Inlet waters. The tail numbers help the USAD identify the plane.

    Or the F-94 that lost his electical just after liftoff from EAFB in 1953? Call sign "Gaydog Yellow Leader," he punched up into the overcast, never to be seen again!

    It's an unforgiving country, my friend.

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    Has anyone heard an update on this lately?
    I know that Alaska can be unforgiven & the chances for a positive outome are extremely unlikely at this point, but for the sake of the families involved-Sure hope this plane is found.

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    !@#$... I had hoped for a happier ending, but I have been around the SAR business too long to have counted on it. May they rest in peace and may God bless their friends and families
    At sea, it's force not reason that confers sovereign rights

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    Certainly not great news but better than the complete unknown, which is what the families have had to this point. I've met, and flown many family members of Neil, Seth and Mason over the last couple months. Weeks after the plane disappeared, many of them maintained hope that they'd be found safe, but primarily I think they just wanted them found.

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    Here's the NPS release from earlier today:

    Debris from the plane carrying three National Park Service employees in Katmai National Park was located on the park’s rugged northern coast on Tuesday.

    Katmai National Park Superintendent Ralph Moore said he was notified by a local helicopter pilot, Sam Egli, that he had spotted portions of the aircraft, including a piece of the tail with identifying numbers, on a narrow section of beachabout 10 miles northwest of Sukoi Bay.

    The single engine floatplane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon, carried the pilot and three National Park Service maintenance employees and has been missing since August 21.

    National Park Service and military personnel are headed to the site this morning to secure the debris and continue the search for additional wreckage. The accident investigation will be conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.

    The employees who were on board the aircraft were Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers, Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20. The pilot was Marco Alletto, 47, from King Salmon. Egli told the park that there was no indication of survivors.

    The discovery of the plane comes after more than a month of aerial and ground searching by national park, military and civilian personnel. More than 60,000 miles of flying was done, at times with more than a dozen aircraft working search patterns over the 4 million acre park. The area where the debris was found had been flown over by the National Park Service as recently as Monday, and rangers had walked the beach just a few miles west of the debris site. High tides and high east winds on Monday and Tuesday are thought to have helped make the debris visible from the air.

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    So does this mean that it was an ocean crash? Not sure what it really means for the family but I guess that it's something. Prayers go out to them.

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