ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard suspended the search this afternoon for a the pilot aboard a plane that down in the Pacific Ocean approximately 460 miles off Pt. Reyes late Thursday night.
A Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento HC-130 aircrew and the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Neptun conducted search efforts in the Pacific Ocean. The Coast Guard aircrew searched a 368 square-mile area for approximately five hours. Searches by the Coast Guard and the Neptun crews reported aircraft debris but no signs of the pilot.
At 7:40 p.m. Thursday the 11th Coast Guard District received a report from the North American Aerospace Defense Command that a civilian experimental type Lancair aircraft departed from Palmdale with one person aboard was not responding to communications, and was heading out to sea.
The 11th District issued a SafetyNet and an Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System alert to notify mariners of the situation and ask their assistance in locating the aircraft and its pilot. In coordination with NORAD, the Coast Guard requested an Air Force KC-135 and two F-15 aircrews along with a Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento HC-130 aircrew to assist in the search effort.
The F-15 crews were able to fly near the aircraft but could not get a response from the pilot. Later the HC-130 aircrew was approximately three miles behind the experimental aircraft when they observed it crash into the ocean at approximately 10:39 p.m.
The KC-135 dropped a sonar buoy, and the HC-130 aircrew dropped two self-locating data marking buoys and a life raft; however, all air crews have reported seeing no signs of the pilot.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out the family and friends of the missing pilot,” said Capt. Ward W. Sandlin, chief of incident management for the 11th District. “It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search, but after a thorough search of the crash area by a merchant ship, and extensive searching by fellow aviators, we turned up no signs of the missing man.”
The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident.