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A third day of searching for a missing pilot, identified as 55-year-old David McRae, who was en route from Lake Hood to the Lake Clark Lodge on Friday, ended without success on Sunday.
McRae, the nephew of former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond and her husband, late Governor Jay Hammond, was on his way to the lodge with a load of fuel.
The Alaska Air National Guard initiated their search for the missing aircraft at 10:25 pm on Friday night after the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center picked up a 406 beacon activation earlier in the evening. But, poor weather conditions and poor visibility hindered search efforts.
Although RCC received indications of a beacon activation at 6:30 pm, that beacon did not immediately transmit coordinates of the aircraft in distress. It wasn’t until controllers were able to make contact with family at the lodge that they were able to zero in on the possible location. At 7:30 pm, the beacon began transmitting a general location.
Controllers with RCC were able to refine the crash site location to a 10-25 mile radius within the Lake Clark National Park. As the probable crash site was within the National Park Service’s area of responsibility, NPS was contacted and when asked, they accepted assistance in the search.
At 10:25 pm, a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210 Rescue Squadron departed JBER and headed towards Merrill Pass 90 miles to the west of Anchorage. But, despite making two efforts to reached the area, poor weather and visibility forced the chopper to return to JBER.
The Pave Hawk resumed the search Saturday morning, but poor weather and rugged terrain continued to hinder the search. The high elevation mountain peaks in the area were often concealed in cloud cover.
An HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron departed JBER at 1 pm on Saturday, flew to the search site, where they refueled the Pave Hawk, before joining in the search. The search continued until 6:30 pm until weather conditions worsened forcing the aircraft to once again return to JBER without success.
Low clouds and fog persisted in the search area on Sunday, further hampering search efforts.
Efforts to locate McRae and his downed aircraft are set to resume this morning.