Crews continue search for missing aircraft

Military personnel, civilian volunteers continue to comb the area for missing Piper airplane.

The search for a missing plane that took off from Cranbrook last week is ongoing, as military and civilian search and rescue personnel continue to scour the Kootenay region.

A Piper Warrior aircraft carrying Alex Simons and Sidney Robillard took off from Cranbrook on Thursday evening en route to Kamloops, however, the aircraft never arrived.

The 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox has been utilizing Buffalo aircraft and Cormorant helicopters and are being aided by PEP Air civilian volunteers.

Major Stefan Szkwarek, the deputy commander of the air task force, says inclement weather over the weekend hampered the search efforts, but adds that the 442 is using every resource it can to conduct the search.

“One of the issues is the mountaintops,” Szkwarek said. “if the caps are at 10,000 feet and the clouds start at 6,000 feet, we can’t search the mountains adequately visually, so we have to go and return to those areas afterwards, so it prolongs the search.

“We’re doing absolutely everything we can here and everyone is pushing to their limits to find this airplane.”

With no cloud cover on Monday, SAR personnel are hoping ramp up their visual sweeps.

“Time is of the essence, obviously,” Szkwarek said. “We’re working as quickly and as safely as we can. It is a 150-nautical mile track that we’re centring on between Cranbrook and Kelowna and the search area is 10 nautical miles on each side of that track.”

A CP-140 Aurora has also conducted a sensory sweep of the area to search for any signals, but that hasn’t turned up anything. A 406 beacon signal was reported, however, it is very weak and the military can’t direction-find it, Szkwarek said.

“It could be a red herring at this point, but we’re leaving no stone unturned on that and if we pick up on a harder ping, then we will absolutely prosecute it,” he added.

The missing aircraft, with call letters CGDTK, was piloted by Simons after taking off from Lethbridge early Thursday morning. Thunderstorm conditions were prevalent in the area when the aircraft took off from the Canadian Rockies International Airport later that day.

After failing to report in Kamloops, a search was launched on Friday, supported by by the 442 squadron and civilian volunteers.