DOWAGIAC, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Wing Civil Air Patrol says it is still looking for a missing plane that left Dowagiac Sunday morning.
According to Lt. William VanderMolen of the Michigan Wing CAP, there was no cell phone on the plane of 83-year-old Marcellus resident Richard Martin.
Martin’s plane is considered an experimental aircraft, which is not required to have the same location-transmitting equipment (ADS-B) as certified aircraft, investigators said.
“It’s probably been 10, 15 years, in Michigan specifically, since we’ve been called out on a large-scale search like this that hasn’t had one of the other elements, such as a radar track, cell phone … or some of the other advanced technologies,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bowden, vice commander of operations for the Michigan Wing CAP.
The plane was believed to have an Emergency Locator Transmitter, which is intended to give off a distress signal in the case of an accident, according to VanderMolen. No distress signal was received.
Investigators also said Martin did not have a flight plan filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is common.
“A lot of times, pilots still prefer the good old paper map and the pure form of flying without all the newer technology, so that in itself is not unusual,” Bowden said.
With these complications, rescue crews on the ground must go back to basic search techniques like line searching. On Tuesday, they focused on areas near the Brush Creek campground, south of Lawrence.
“They’re in a big line, going through a wooded area, and that’s where the clues really make a big difference,” Bowden said. “Because without the technology, without a flight plan and some of the other things we rely on to narrow the area, we have a large area that we’re attempting to search.”
CAP pilots and private Dowagiac pilots have been scanning the surface from up above, too, flying as far as Paw Paw, Marcellus, Berrien Springs and Watervliet.
“If they see something that might catch their eye — some reflective metal on the ground, smoke, disturbed brush — then we’ll deploy our ground teams and our small SUAS systems — drones — to go up and take a closer look at those areas,” Bowden explained.
The Michigan Wing CAP said it received overnight tips from the U.S. Air Force and the public that helped it focus on particular search areas.
On Sunday at around 11 a.m., Martin left Dowagiac in a small, home-built aircraft. The flight was supposed to last one hour, but the plane never returned.
The plane has a polished aluminum exterior and tail number of N569SX. Martin was reportedly the sole occupant, according to the CAP.
Investigators said Martin’s family told them he has no outstanding medical history that could be a factor in his disappearance.
“From everything we’ve learned, he was a healthy individual, loves flying, so we’ll make every effort to give the maximum search to try to bring him home safely,” Bowden said.
Anyone with information that may help with the search is asked to email the Michigan Wing CAP incident commander at IC@MIWG.CAP.GOV.