Search for lost plane called off

By Union Democrat staff December 28, 2012 07:37 am

Authorities officially called off a search Thursday for a small plane that went missing over Yosemite National Park on Dec. 17.

A Mooney M20F four-seater piloted by Nicol Struan Wilson, 68, of Solvang, flying alone out of Santa Ynez Airport, disappeared from radar that afternoon near North Dome.

 

Aerial search efforts since that time failed to yield clues or evidence regarding the plane’s location, according to Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

About 60 people assisted in the air search, including search and rescue teams from Yosemite, California Highway Patrol and Civil Air Patrol. Search teams flew approximately 8,000 miles in all during the search, Cobb said.

More than 5 feet of new snow has fallen at the higher elevations of the park, including the search area, since the plane went missing.

“Snow accumulation from this storm, in addition to the existing snow on the ground, has halted search operations for the remainder of the winter season,” Cobb said. “The park will resume search efforts in the spring of 2013, when weather and snow conditions permit.”

Wilson was scheduled to land in Mammoth Lakes. It is unclear to investigators why the aircraft ended up so far north of that location before it disappeared. 

An emergency beacon in the plane did not put out a detectable signal following the incident.

Wilson’s wife, Constance, reported him missing on the night of Dec. 17, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Wilson was flying alone in the plane manufactured in 1966 and had flown in the area on a number of previous occasions, Cobb said.