2012-12-20 / Front Page

Downed plane may remain lost until spring

A single-engine aircraft that apparently went down over Yosemite National Park may remain lost until spring. A winter storm scheduled to hit the area on Dec. 21 is expected to drop 2-4 feet of snow, likely obscuring any wreckage until next year's spring melt.

One press report said the downed airplane was a Mooney single-engine aircraft (see photo).

The plane, flown by pilot Nicol Wilson from the Santa Barbara area, was flying from Santa Barbara to the Mammoth Lakes Airport on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, when it disappeared.  There were no passengers onboard.  Wilson was reported missing by his family on the evening of Dec. 17, after failing to arrive in Mammoth as planned. 

 Search efforts for the missing plane were initiated on Dec. 18.  Poor weather and lack of visibility hindered the air search efforts.  Additional efforts to locate the plane via beacon receivers were unsuccessful.  Multiple aircraft were able to search during daylight hours yesterday, Wednesday, December 19. Searching remains difficult due to over one foot of fresh snow at the higher elevations in the park.  No clues or signs of the aircraft have been discovered.

The search area, roughly 600 square miles, is located in a rugged section of the park that inaccessible by vehicle this time of the year.  So far, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter has flown 825 miles over the search area.  Additionally, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) aircraft has flown 2,214 miles over the search area.

Approximately 60 personnel are assisting in the air search, including Search and Rescue teams from Yosemite National Park, CHP, and CAP.

Photo: AOPAPhoto: AOPA

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