2 thoughts on “Missing In Alaska

  1. Your story brought back memories for me. I was a young buck sergeant assigned to the Alaskan Air Command public information office in the early 1970s. One of our duties was to share the after hours and weekend reporting of missing aircraft for the Rescue Coordination Center, at that time located on Elmendorf Air Force Base, about two blocks from our office. I remember my first time in the RCC. I had gone over there to talk to the duty sergeant and get enough information to make a news release for the papers, numerous radio stations, and the TV stations around the state. A small 3 x 5 card file sat on the sergeant’s desk. I asked what was in it. That’s missing aircraft that have never been found. He told me to look through it. I was astounded. There were hundreds of cards going back to WWII. Among the missing aircraft was an RC-135 (a spy version of a 707), a DC-6, and too many aircraft to remember. A year later an Air National Guard flight from the Lower 48 which had come to Alaska for an “exercise” spotted what appeared to be a wing sticking out the end of a glacier down on the Alaska Peninsula. It turned out to be a C-118 (DC-6) that had disappeared15 or 20 years previously. The plane had crash landed on a glacier, been covered up by snow, and progressively became deeper and deeper in the glacier until the ice river spit it out. The recovery crews were able to retrieve the remains of the crew.

    I vividly remember the search for Hale Boggs and Nick Begich. The RCC was of course in charge and between military and voluntary aircraft, I believe there were thousands of flying hours flown in the search without a trace. Don Janz, the pilot of the 310, had coincidentally written an article for Flying Magazine that was on the newsstands when they disappeared in which he offered some ideas on how icing could be avoided or dealt with in an aircraft not equipped with anti-icing equipment. Since a great deal of the flight was over water thousands of feet deep, my guess is we’ll never know what happened.

    I also remember the P-39 fighter found by a prospector west of Fairbanks. It had a red star painted on the side, but the aircraft was largely intact. The aircraft was one of the thousands given by the U.S. to the Russians during the lend lease program in WWII. The Air Force rolled an H-3 helicopter that flew to the site, cut back enough trees to clear a space, and lifted the P-39 into the air and flew it back to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.

    No doubt there are still dozens, if not hundreds, of aircraft still hidden in the vastness of Alaska.

  2. Public Law 91-956 signed in 1970 by Richard Nixon was a rider to the OSHA bill that required ELTs be installed in all US aircraft. This was well before the Begich Boggs search.

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