Search continues for downed pilot in Lake Clark National Park

Neacola Moutains (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
Neacola Moutains (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

It’s been five days since Anchorage pilot David McRae’s plane went down in Lake Clark National Park last Friday. With a window of slightly better weather Wednesday morning, the Alaska Air National Guard continued search efforts by helicopter and C-130. Friend and fellow pilot Glen Alsworth from nearby Port Alsworth has been monitoring the search for McRae closely, which he says has been constantly hampered by foul weather.

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“The way the low pressure is set up in the Bering Sea side and the high pressures to the east, it’s streaming that warm wet air from the Gulf of Alaska right up across the Alaska range where it is cooling and turning into fog and snow, and it’s been accompanied by high winds as well,” Alsworth said.

McRae’s plane is believed to have gone down in a mountainous area along the Merrill Pass route between Anchorage and Lake Clark. An emergency beacon from the plane indicated an altitude of about 5000 feet, and the search radius has been narrowed to about five miles. But hope of finding McRae alive has faded with each new day of poor weather.

“And it’s to me quite unusual that it’s such a long time the weather has stayed in the same pattern,” Alsworth said. “It’s very unfortunate and we need a break so we can get search and rescue folks a chance to even access the site.”

McRae was flying a load of fuel to his aunt Bella Hammond’s lakeside lodge Friday went his plane apparently went down. He has deep ties to the Bristol Bay region, and is a highly respected pilot. Alsworth has also known McRae for years.

“David McRae is just a fine gentleman who’s always been very careful,” Alsworth said. “Very majored in his decisions and he’s always been extremely responsible and careful in all the interfacing I’ve ever had with him”

McRae is believed to have been the only person on board the single engine Pilatus Porter. The NTSB said it will be investigating the crash.