June 16, 2017 7:54 pm
Updated: June 16, 2017 11:36 pm

Search pilots’ struggles could lead to clues about what happened to missing plane in B.C.


Volunteers with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association have joined a host of pilots and crews with the Armed Forces in the search for a single-engine plane in B.C. as well as the people on board: pilot Alex Simons and his passenger, Sydney Robillard, both 21.

The pair were en route from Lethbridge to Kamloops when they stopped in Cranbrook to refuel on June 8. They haven’t been seen since.

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WATCH:  Search continues in B.C. for missing plane with 2 people on board

The pair were en route from Lethbridge to Kamloops when they stopped in Cranbrook to refuel on June 8. They haven’t been seen since.

The search area includes the Rocky Mountains, tough terrain to look for a missing plane.

“The freezing levels are between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, so the precipitation included rain, hail and snow,” Lt.-Col. Bryn Elliott, Air Task Force Commander, said.

Low clouds hamper visibility and because the search area is so huge, weather can vary from area to area.

Volunteer Stan Owen just returned from the Kamloops region where turbulence was a problem. He’s preparing to go back up again.

“So we’ll have to watch for the convective build-up. Other than that, we search 500 feet off the deck and half a mile out on each side of the wing.”

Aside from the weather, Owen said the terrain itself can cause challenges for pilots.

He says there are a lot of potential hazards when flying over the mountains.

WATCH:  Searching for missing plane is no easy task

“Oh, they’re huge,” Owen said. “If you’re not used to it, it’s very huge. The normal airplane loses power with the higher altitudes…you’ve got to know the winds, there’s drafts coming over the mountains that can take you right down. You’ve got to work with it and know what you’re doing.”

But all of this familiarity with the area pilots are gaining during the search could be helpful.

WATCH:  Searchers looking for plane and missing pair hopeful they will find something

A thunderstorm passed through the Cranbrook area shortly after Simons and Robillard took off.

With little other information to go on, searchers are thinking like aviators to try and put together clues and figure out what likely happened.

“He had his intended flight but maybe the weather pushed him away from that,” Elliott said.

“Then where would he have gone?”

Elliott said searchers continue to go into areas where they think the plane might be, and will go over the entire search area again from new altitudes.

He said the search won’t be called off until he feels all of the terrain has been covered in a significant way. Elliott said he can’t say how long that will take.

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