Search for Missing Cessna to Continue Into Thursday

HONOLULU (CG Public Affairs) – Rescue air crews with the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to fly patterns Wednesday afternoon and evening in hopes of locating three people aboard a sightseeing Cessna 172 last seen in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tuesday afternoon.

Also, pending developments overnight Wednesday, air crews aboard two H-65 Dolphin helicopters and two C-130 search planes are scheduled to fly at first light Thursday.

The Coast Guard’s plan is to saturate an area where it is most likely the aircraft may have been lost.

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 Tuesday and all day Wednesday.

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

By sunset Wednesday, the Coast Guard was to have scoured an area more than 3,000 square miles, an area roughly five 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 Wednesday 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 aerial searches conducted at altitudes between 500 feet and 20,000 feet, the Coast Guard listened without success for the Cessna’s emergency locating transmitter (ELT), a rescue device that broadcasts a distress signal on one of three different frequencies.

“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 had 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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