Coast Guard Coordinates Search for Missing Cessna 172

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard continued today to coordinate a multi-agency search for a missing Cessna 172 on the Big Island. Three people were aboard the sightseeing plane, last seen near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The plane was reported missing to the U.S. Coast Guard by the FAA at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. Coast Guard air crews aboard an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and C-130 search plane were launched immediately from Honolulu and scoured the Big Island late yesterday and last night and continued searching today.

The C-130’s pilot acted as “on-scene commander” today and helped coordinate search crews aboard two Hawaii County Fire Department helicopters, two Civil Air Patrol aircraft and six different aircraft from several Big Island tour flight companies and flight schools.

Ground crews also conducted searches in several areas.

Including the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, at least 12 different search aircraft and crews were on scene today. The Coast Guard has scoured more than 2,500 square miles, an area roughly four times the size of the island of Oahu.

Rescue crews reported ideal search conditions along and near the coast, with winds out of the east at 10 to 15 knots, a ceiling of 8,000 feet and unrestricted visibility. Search conditions were reported to be more challenging, however, near Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, with pockets of limited visibility.

The Coast Guard and HCFD helicopters flew search patterns that followed the Cessna’s filed flight plan from Kona clockwise around the island, over Kohala, down the Hamakua coastline, past Hilo, over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and back to Kona.

During searches yesterday and today, the Coast Guard listened without success for the Cessna’s emergency locating transmitter (ELT), a rescue device that broadcasts a distress signal on 121.5 MHz.

“We are exhausting the search area with as many resources as we can bring to bear,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Floyd, supervisor of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District Command Center in Honolulu. “We have great weather along the coast and slightly inland, but our air crews are reporting more difficult conditions near Mauna Kea, where we are concentrating our search efforts.”

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