Fire detection aircraft missing in Arkansas

Fire detection aircraft missing in Arkansas

02 February 2014

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USA — The search continues for the missing airplane and pilot who was on a fire detection mission in Arkansas when he failed to check in as scheduled after his last radio contact at 1:11 p.m. CST, January 31, 2014.

The aircraft had an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on board and searchers have been looking for signals from the device but have found nothing yet. ELTs are no panacea, in fact older versions activate properly in only 12% of crashes according to NOAA. Newer models with the Cospas-Sarsat system have a higher accident survivability rate,

Below is information released this morning from the Arkansas Forestry Commission about the missing plane:

“Teams Continuously Search for Missing AFC Pilot, Jake Harrell

Ground crews searched all night along routes below the supposed flight path of missing AFC pilot, Jake Harrel. Last night, more than 200 miles were traveled along back roads and rugged trails, searching for some sign of the pilot or plane.

Ground squads are focusing today on the north side of the supposed flight route with steep slopes, near Oden. Four wheelers will be used to access challenging sections of terrain. This concentrated efforst is based on information from Jakes cell provider about what is thought to be his last transmission before he went missing on Friday. The Incident Command Post in Mena is carefully monitoring the weaher situation as ice and rain may move through the area. Search crews will not stop; however aerial search attempts may not be possible today.

“We are doing our best to speculate about which direction Jake may have taken the plane on Friday, if his visibility was becoming difficult. We are hopeful that by narrowing search efforts to this area, that we may have a good chance of locating him,” said Billy Black, AFC Investigator.”

Search crews are still looking for the missing fire detection aircraft and pilot in Arkansas. At about 6:50 p.m. CST the Arkansas Forestry Commission issued this update:

Search efforts continue through the night for missing AFC Pilot, Jake Harrell. “We are going to be here until we find Jake. Tonight and tomorrow’s efforts are already planned and we are aggressively covering as much ground as quickly and safely as possible,” said State Forester, Joe Fox.

An Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot has failed to check in with AFC Central Dispatch in Malvern.

AFC pilot, Jake Harrell, failed to check-in with AFC Central Dispatch (in Malvern) yesterday after 1:11 p.m. Jake was flying a regularly scheduled fire detection flight from Malvern to points throughout west Arkansas. His last known location was Oden, with the supposed intent of traveling toward Wickes.

Jake is 34 years old and is a seasoned pilot with the AFC, since 2005. He had flown many times on the very route that he traveled yesterday. He currently flies as a part-time pilot with the AFC and works full time with the North Little Rock Police Department. He also serves with the Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Fighter Wing.

Ground crews include two and three-person teams searching gridded locations in Montgomery and Polk Counties – close in proximity to a possible route he may have been flying between check points in Oden and Wickes. Crews are searching by foot and four-wheelers. Chainsaw crews and dozers are on standby. Two Civil Air Patrol planes and a National Guard helicopter are assisting with search efforts from the air. Visibility is difficult from the air at this time; ground crews have better visibility until conditions clear.

The Incident Command structure in Mena is a Unified Command team with the following partners involved: Arkansas Forestry Commission, Polk and Montgomery County Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas State Police, Emergency Management crews from Polk and Montgomery County, local volunteer fire departments, and the Civil Air Patrol.

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