CASCADE, Idaho -- Another day of searching and still no signs of an airplane that is missing in the remote wilderness in Valley County. Crews have searched from the air and ground now for five days.
On Sunday afternoon, a small plane with five people on board lost contact with air traffic control after reporting a loss of engine power. In the last communication with the tower, the pilot asked for directions to the Johnson Creek airstrip in Yellow Pine, Idaho.
The incident commander gave KTVB a look today inside the operations center in Cascade to see how they've been planning out each day. They have maps of where has already been checked and plans of what to do next.
On Thursday, helicopters and planes from around the region were again in the air looking for any clues, using advanced technology, like infrared radar that can pick up temperature changes, like a person's body heat. Poor weather conditions have forced aircrews to turn back several times.
"Even in the summer, it’s bad enough, but you throw in the elements like we’re facing now, it’s almost impossible. It’s real frustrating," said Incident Commander Lt. Dan Smith, with Valley County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, crews aren’t getting any good signals off of an emergency transmitter, which they once thought they were getting signals from. Smith says it turns out the signal was probably false as they've searched that area extensively.
Instead, crews are going off of the last cell phone signal and contact point with the air traffic control tower in salt lake city, when the pilot reported losing engine power and wanted directions to the Johnson Creek Air Strip near Yellow Pine.
"[We] are trying to figure out every possibility of what direction he would have turned and traveled based on that, but that’s all we have to go off of," Smith said.
In addition to flying the possible paths the pilot may have taken, people on the ground are also looking, though today fewer were out.
"We had about 35 people on the ground today that were searching," Smith said. "It went down from yesterday, we had about 50-60 yesterday. The problem is we've got guys that have been up there in minus degree weather for as long as four days searching. And they're getting extremely tired and worn out and it's taking its toll on everybody."
Smith says they’ve had both public and private assistance from all over the country, but only the most prepared and experienced in this terrain can realistically and safely be of help.
"We get calls constantly of people wanting to help. It’s just without something concrete to go on, we’re really limited," Smith said.