Search for airplane scaled back

By Chris Collins December 09, 2013 08:43 am

By Chris Collins

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The search has been scaled back for a single-engine plane that went missing  Dec. 1 en route from Baker City to Butte, Mont.

The search had been centered around the remote Johnson Creek Airstrip near Yellow Pine, Idaho, in the mountains of central Idaho.

That’s where the pilot, Dale Smith, 51, a software executive from San Jose, Calif., was thought to be heading after seeking coordinates for the unpaved airstrip from air traffic controllers at Salt Lake City.

On Tuesday, searchers picked up a faint signal from Smith’s six-seat Beech Bonanza airplane, but by Wednesday, searchers had no sign of it, according to the Valley Idaho Sheriff’s Department.

Smith flew out of the Baker City Airport after 11 a.m. Sunday. His plane lost radar and cell tower contact shortly after 1 p.m. MST, according to the Valley County authorities.

Others on board were Dale Smith’s children, Daniel and Amber; Daniel’s wife, Sheree; and Amber’s fiancé, Jonathan Norton. The engaged couple are students at Brigham Young University-Idaho at Rexburg. Their wedding was planned for Jan. 4. 

In Friday’s announcement that the search would be scaled back, Lt. Dan Smith of the Valley County Sheriff’s Office, stated in a press release that  aerial searchers were grounded by poor visibility, leaving a limited number of ground searchers to work the area until the weather no longer permitted.

He added that pilots flying in the area will be asked to keep an eye out for any signs of the missing aircraft. 

“The possibility exists for the aircraft to be outside of the initial search area, but the vast and remote nature of the backcountry area limits the ability to extend the search any further at this time,” Smith stated.