Alberta RCMP are searching for a small plane that didn’t arrive at its destination after taking off from a town in western Alberta.
Westlock RCMP said a small plane with a solo pilot didn’t arrive in the community north of Edmonton as scheduled, after leaving Edson on Sunday evening. There was also a dog on board, according to the Department of National Defence (DND), which is involved in the search effort.
Rob Dunham with Sky High Flight Training confirmed to Global News that the pilot’s name is Scott Schneider. The last anyone heard from him was when he stopped for fuel in Edson, he said. Dunham added that Schneider is originally from Nebraska, but has been involved in farming around Westlock for the last eight years.
Police said a Cessna 172 departed Edson at 5:20 p.m. Sunday and was set to land in Westlock at 7 p.m. The plane never arrived and no contact has been made with the pilot, who was the only person in the aircraft.
When the pilot didn’t show up for work on Monday, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) began searching along the aircraft’s likely route, the DND said in a media release Tuesday.
“There is no emergency beacon or anything of the sort that had been activated in the aircraft, so we’re not able to track or locate the aircraft that way,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Warren.
“So right now, we’re kind of relying on the possible flight path that would’ve been taken from Edson to Westlock.”
Warren said the pilot is a 40-year-old man but could not confirm his name.
The Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) and RCAF crews amplified search efforts with additional aircraft and personnel from Edmonton, Cold Lake and Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Wildfires have generated a smoky haze that has challenged search efforts — the conditions have meant that CASARA aircraft based in Edmonton have not taken to the air.
CASARA ground personnel, however, have conducted Emergency Locator Transmitter searches.
On Thursday, an RCAF news release said the search involved more than 40 RCAF personnel plus additional staff at 8 Wing Trenton, the search effort’s Ontario-based headquarters. Personnel, using night vision equipment, conducted searches late Wednesday into Thursday morning.
Pilot Jerald Driedger and Schneider are members of the Westlock Flying Club. Driedger said the terrain on that route is quite varied and thick smoke could have played a role.
“The visibility is a very important part when flying the visual flight rule aircraft, which is what he was in,” he said. “So he may have gotten lost. Something may have gone wrong. It’s hard to tell at this point as to what’s going on.”
It’s an unfortunate situation that can easily happen, Driedger said.
“It’s definitely not something that you want to hear,” he said. “We’re hoping for the best. I mean at this point, we’re hoping that he’s found safe, that he’s still with us here.”
“Keep an eye out for him because you never know he may have found a roadway or something to land on and he’s just out in the middle of nowhere,” Driedger said. “All we can do is keep our eyes open.”
The single-engine aircraft is described as white with black and red stripes, pictured below.
RCMP are asking residents in Evansburg, Mayerthorpe, Barrhead and Westlock to check their land for the aircraft.
Anyone who knows where the plane might be is asked to call Westlock RCMP.
Edson is about 190 kilometres west of Edmonton.
— With files from Phil Heidenreich and Allison Bench