New "Missing Aircraft Search Team" Helps Find Lost Cessna 182

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A group of volunteers who met while working on the Steve Fossett search in 2007 have formed an ad hoc group called the Missing Aircraft Search Team (MAST), and this week they announced their first recovery -- a Cessna 182 that was lost near Sedona, Ariz., in September 2006, with two souls on board. "Our team is made up of about 14 people from around the country, and we meet online or over the phone," spokesman Lew Toulmin told AVweb on Wednesday. "One of our volunteers in California, Chris Killian, was checking fire reports, and found a report that had been overlooked, from the day that the airplane disappeared." That clue was the turning point, as the hikers who filed the report were tracked down and they were able to pinpoint the site of the fire. Their curiosity piqued, the hikers returned to the woods the next weekend, and found the wreckage of the airplane. Authorities confirmed that it was the 182 that went missing with pilot Bill Westover and passenger Marcy Randolph. Toulmin said MAST is working to organize as a nonprofit group and take on more projects, and also to develop new search strategies using Google Earth and other tools.

Toulmin added that MAST also will examine the way that searches are conducted and lobby for improvements. "The data are so scattered," he said. "We found in both cases [Fossett's disappearance and the 182 case] that there were myriad problems with coordination, funding, insurance, standards, routine destruction of vital search data, search command and control, and lack of 'lessons learned' analysis." Another group, InternetSAR, was formed after the Fossett search to promote the use of Internet resources for aerial searching. Toulmin said MAST also will organize ground searches. Two ground searches had already been planned for Arizona this month. The group is now looking at a couple of other cases and will take on another project soon, Toulmin said. He said about 100 light aircraft have gone missing since 1962. For more information about MAST, click here for the news release.