For those living in populated areas it can be hard to fathom how a relatively large object, such as a missing airplane, can be so difficult to find in places like Wyoming.
For the second time in two months a search is going on for a missing private aircraft in Wyoming. Today marks the fourth day of the search for the Cessna 182 flown by Myles McGinnis of La Barge, Wyoming. Myles was flying from Stevensville, MT to Pinedale, WY. The aircraft went off radar somewhere between Jackson and Bondurant.
On October 9 a single engine Piper Saratoga traveling from Texas to Casper, Wyoming was reported missing. It took two days to find the downed plane on the south side of Laramie Peak, approximately 40 miles south east of Casper. I hiked to the top of Laramie Peak earlier in the same month, and it’s easy to imagine the search for a small plane in needle and haystack proportions. (see Gallery below)
When I was traveling in July, I met a man from a large eastern city. When he found out I live in Wyoming he surprised me when he said he ‘loved’ Wyoming. He related that he had been deployed in Afghanistan. After his deployment, he landed in California. Since he does not like flying, he and a buddy decided to drive cross country back to the eastern states.
He told me about how he did not understand how planes or people could get lost in places like Wyoming and how it puzzled him that it could take days, or even weeks, to find them – until he drove across Wyoming and over a few thickly forested mountain ranges. Then he understood.
It is big country out here. Some of it is open rangeland that stretches from horizon to horizon. Many visitors express amazement at the distances between towns, gas stations and other services, not to mention the fact that you can drive for hours on the back country roads without seeing another vehicle. In some places the coniferous forest is so thick you can’t see more than a few yards. Flying over thick forests it’s often impossible to see the ground. A small aircraft can be completely hidden beneath the evergreen canopy.
In the case of the Cessna and its pilot, ground crews are also on the search. They will be looking for any unusual disturbance of the earth or forest canopy, and listening for any unexpected sounds. Overhead searchers will be looking for small signs such as the glint of sun on metal or broken trees. It’s a daunting task and I feel for the family of the missing man. Keep the family in your prayers.