Search for missing Solvang pilot still delayed

April 29, 2013
Mooney W20F

Mooney M20F

A search for a missing Solvang pilot whose single-engine airplane apparently crashed near Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome will be resumed in June, park officials said. [Santa Maria Times]

Nicol Wilson’s 1966 Mooney M20F disappeared from radar Dec. 17 after he left Santa Ynez Airport headed for Mammoth Lakes Airport to join his family for a holiday celebration. Wilson, 66, was the only person aboard the aircraft.

Officials were able to discern the approximate location of the missing plane at the point where it was last detected by radar, but rescuers have been unable to reach the site because of bad weather. The location, which covers more than 600 square miles, remains cloaked in heavy snow.

A park spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle last year, “This is definitely like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is a very small plane, it is a single engine plane and it was white. The area they are looking in is completely covered in snow, so the chances of spotting the plane are going to be extremely hard. Also, with the sun being so low this time of the year, it has created shadows from some of the peaks making it difficult to see in the dark areas of those shadows.”

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Yes, a GPS-enhanced 406-MHz emergency locating signal device is almost instantaneous for position determination, however I doubt that his 1966 aircraft had one installed.

Unfortunately there’s no requirement in the US to replace the 1st & 2nd generation 121.5-MHz emergency locating system that is like a dim flashlight with a scratched up lens.

This is one of those times when I wouldn’t mind the gubmint playing nanny by requiring that all planes have a working GPS. Not because I think the gov has any business forcing an adult to take safety precautions (like they do with seat belts thanks to the insurance companies) but because of all the distress and expense that it costs the taxpayers when the plane goes down unexpectedly.

I read another article that said that this plane had a GPS but that it either didn’t work or only momentarily worked after it was triggered. The article also said that this is a very safe plane because it has the equivalent of a roll bar built into it. I would assume that this means the pilot had an excellent chance of surviving the crash landing but because of the faulty GPS, he probably perished from the elements. So sad.

Cindy, that Mooney Executive 20F is a fast – really fast flying plane, and the odds of impact survival in that high vertical terrain even at maneuvering speed would be between zero and perhaps next-to-zero.

Steve Fosset didn’t survive impact at high altitude even in that slow moving Citabria aircraft.

Neither of you two have a clue about General Aviation.

The cost of a 406 ELT is at least 10k. Not everyone that flies has that kind of extra cash. With the high cost of fuel and other cost, many are lucky to be able to fly at all as it is, let alone pay for an expensive device most will never need. As an alternative, I have a 406 Personal Location beacon, and many use a SPOT that is not officially monitored but notifies your friends of your location. Of course you must be alive and mobile to use devices like mine, but if I am not, then I am on my own.

Mooneys are small efficient little airplanes but are not all that fast in relation to the Fossett Citabria. Consider Fossett flew loops and rolls at the bottom of would be close to the cruising speed of the Mooney.

Bob – I think it was Socrates that stated “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Your stated “The cost of a 406 ELT is at least 10K.”

An Artex 406-MHz model retails for around $1,000.00 with antenna. This unit does not have nav capabilities, but tightens the search area by a factor of up to 10.

You stated “Mooneys are not ……………… all that fast in relation to …….. a Citabria.”.

A Mooney (depending on the model) flys at around 160 knots and a Citabria, at best flys at around 100 knots.

So, who is it that “doesn’t have a clue?”

I think it is you.

Cindy this may help.

They started search next day after crash and suspended about ten days later till spring, due to bad weather. If he crashed near the summit, where 120 goes over, they get a LOT of snow up there. That is why 120 is only opened from late May to early Oct. every year on average.

Sounds like they made the same effort as all emergency stuff usually does in these situations. Like they said, needle in a haystack. Think of all the trees the debris could be under and out of site.

I hope that they at least tried. Did they think of looking at night? Maybe he had flares that he could fire if he saw a search and rescue or maybe he could light a fire with some of the plane contents. I would be going crazy if this was my loved one who crashed out there. I sure hope that they really tried to find him when this first occurred. I’m sure he must have friends with planes who tried to help and thought of these things, poor family, poor guy.

Why don’t all planes carry a GPS? Then we could find them right away, no?