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Plane with 3 Aboard Missing in Smoky Mountains

Plane with 3 Aboard Missing in Smoky Mountains

A search is underway for a plane that left Jacksonville on Monday bound for the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport and disappeared over the Smoky Mountains.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at about 7:35 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016 after a family member reported the plane did not arrive as expected. The missing plane is reported to be a Cessna 182 fixed wing single-engine aircraft registered to David Starling. Family members told media that Starling, his eight-year-old son Hunter, and Kim Smith were aboard the plane. The plane was in conversations with air traffic controllers at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, but officials have not released the content of those communications.

Civil Air Patrol conducted an aerial reconnaissance flight late Monday to try to locate the plane using the emergency locator transmitter, but did not find any transmissions from the aircraft.

Using information from the radar at McGhee Tyson Airport and the plane’s emergency locator transmitter, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center has determined the plane is most likely located in an area southwest of Mount LeConte Lodge.

“Today, ground search teams were deployed to Bearpen Hollow Branch and areas southwest of the Bullhead Trail to search for signs of the aircraft,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn. “The park is also coordinating with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to arrange for a reconnaissance flight as soon as the weather clears.”

As of Tuesday evening, the plane had not been found.

Photo: NPS

About Candice Fitzgibbons

I am a Sevier County resident and active in my local community. I've spent more than 20 years as a graphic designer and copywriter, creating marketing materials to help small to medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations achieve their goals. I have a passion for equality, the environment and animal rights.