US Coast Guard suspends search for missing pilot off Washington State

The US Coast Guard 27-metre patrol boat Adelie in 2007 (Photo: US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd class Kevin J. Neff)

The US Coast Guard has ordered the suspension of an operation to locate a missing private aircraft that is believed to have crashed in the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Washington State with its pilot still onboard.

The adult male pilot took off in a Cessna 170A single-engined aircraft from Ketchikan, Alaska, at mid-day (local time) on Tuesday, January 26. His intended destination was Port Angeles in Washington State.

Shortly before 17:00 on Tuesday, a mayday call from the man was relayed to coast guard units in Seattle. Sector Puget Sound command center immediately started search and rescue (SAR) efforts after receiving the report.

Before contact with the aircraft was lost, the pilot described land formations he could see and ships that were in the area. The coast guard then built a search area based upon that information.

Most of the area covered consisted of the waters north and northwest of Port Angeles, up to the international boundary line.

Rescue crews completed 22 different search patterns and covered more than 3,000 square kilometres over the 23 hours of searching. However, no trace of the aircraft or its pilot was found by the time the search operation was ordered suspended at 16:00 on Wednesday, January 27.

The search effort included the US Coast Guard patrol boats Adelie (pictured) and Terrapin, a coast guard response boat medium from Station Port Angeles, the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and a number of Good Samaritan vessels. Assisting were helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from the US Coast Guard, the US Navy, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

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