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NC/GA Wings Search For Missing Aircraft

Crash Site Ridge Line
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Crash Site Ridge Line in Nantahala Nat. Forest Photos by: 1st lt Mike Krosweck, Capt Ed Menninger. Mission Pilot: Capt John May
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Cessna 182RG Crashed Near Top of Ridge


Late Friday, July 17, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) alerted the NC Wing to begin search and rescue operations for an aircraft that departed a private airport near Cleveland, GA for a flight to the Andrews-Murphy Airport in Cherokee Co. NC. The aircraft, piloted by Bill Allison, a highly skilled pilot with multiple  ratings, was reported overdue by his wife.

Lt.  Col. Jeff Willis served as Incident Commander (IC) for the initial part of the mission. Willis sent out alerts and aircrews were quickly assembled and directed to fly to an area between the Andrews-Murphy airport and the NC/GA state line. NC Wing aircraft commenced searching for any possible ELT signals in the area during the early morning hours of Saturday. The search activities were put on hold early on Saturday morning,. On July 18, at first light, four CAP aircraft were positioned to Asheville where the wing established its mission base. During the day two more aircraft were added to the fleet, drawn from a training exercise being held in Asheboro. Ground teams were also re-tasked from the training exercise and directed to a staging area to join a ground team from Silva-Cullowhee near Hayesville in Clay County.

On Saturday, July 18 Lt. Col. David Crawford took over as Mission IC. A total of six NC Wing aircraft were repositioned to Asheville. Search operations continued throughout the day and aircraft were recalled shortly before sunset.  According to Maj. Paige Joyner, GA Wing MIO, similar activities were pursued along the proposed flight path. The GA and NC mission staffs continued to share information throughout the weekend.  In particular the Incident Commanders and Air Operations staffs worked closely together to coordinate aircraft taskings to maximize the areas being searched, while maintaining safe aircraft separation.

The track between the airport in GA and Andrews-Murphy Airport is approximately 38nm. The area in NC was only 12 nm, but heavily wooded, mountainous terrain hampered search efforts.

On Sunday, July 19, Maj. Andy Wiggs assumed the Incident Commander’s role. Wiggs had been flown to the Asheville Mission Base. Grid searches were continued using two aircraft for the search and one aircraft flying a Highbird (airborne radio repeater) mission. A fourth aircraft was held in reserve.

At mid-afternoon Sunday, the mission base at Asheville learned that a private tour helicopter carrying friends of the pilot had sighted wreckage near the GA border in Clay Co., NC. Clay Co. Emergency Services was notified and a ground team was sent to the site. After several hours of very difficult hiking, the ground team reached the crash site and confirmed the aircraft registration number and that the pilot did not survive the crash.

56 NCWG members were signed into the mission. A total of four vehicles and six aircraft were used. Aircraft logged more than 56 hours of flight time.