Pilot Survives Cold Alaska Night

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Rescue officials scolded an Anchorage Fire Department Battalion Chief for failing to file a flight plan on a sightseeing trip that could have been his last. Wade Strahan, 56, spent a wet, frigid night in an unheated trapper's cabin after his Cessna 172 skidded into Eklutna Lake last Friday afternoon. His disappearance sparked a massive search covering 2,400 square miles. "It would have made everybody's life so much easier if we'd had a flight plan," Major Chris Kobi, senior rescue controller with the Alaska Air National Guard, told The Anchorage Daily News. (Or a personal locator beacon.) Strahan got full marks for endurance and perseverance, however. He had to swim 150 yards to shore and then hike to the unheated cabin where he spent the night huddled on a bed of spruce boughs in zero- to 10-degree temperatures. In the morning, he hiked eight miles before stumbling across cross-country skiers, one of whom text-messaged rescuers on a cellphone. He was cold and tired but otherwise unhurt, save for some frozen feet that might result in his losing a toenail. Strahan was in a wheel-equipped 172 and, according to the Daily News, told authorities he was trying to pack a track on a snow-covered airstrip beside the lake by doing touch and goes. On the third or fourth try, he apparently decided to land and the wheels sunk into the snow. When he tried to abort the landing, he couldn't get airborne in time to avoid hitting a stump of driftwood. The plane skidded across the lakeshore before plunging through the ice and sinking.