With files from Chilliwack Progress
The search will continue for a light aircraft that went missing over Blue River last year, now that snow in the high ground has begun to melt.
The aircraft, which was being flown from Edmonton to Chilliwack when it disappeared from radar, went missing on Sept. 14, 2018, but the search had to be called off due to deteriorating weather conditions.
“They searched, battling the weather, but they were looking for an all-white airplane against fresh snow; they did the best they could and the air force and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) was out for a few days,” said Larry Calvert, area air deputy with Provincial Emergency Program Air and CASARA.
“Finally they had to conclude the people weren’t alive and the search ended.”
The plane—a single-engine, two-seater RV-6—was being flown by Geoff Pickard with his wife Judy in the passenger seat, with the pair on their way home to Chilliwack after a visit with family and friends in Edmonton.
According to CASARA, Geoff wasn’t trained to fly through cloud and was apparently trapped by bad weather, possibly trying to reach Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, or Quesnel.
At the time the plane disappeared from radar it was headed in a north-westerly direction.
Calvert said the group is waiting for a period of stable weather before it goes out to continue the search.
“We need to reach up high on some of the peaks when we are searching and we need to also wait until the snow has melted back,” he added.
“We’re looking up at least to the 7,500 ft. level on some of these mountains.”
Calvert noted he’s more interested in any tips people who were in the Blue River area last September might have, like if they can remember seeing or hearing an airplane on Sept 14.
Those doing the rescue have little to go on in terms of clues and Calvert noted the only concrete information is the last known position of the plane and the fact the weather was bad that day.
“He was heading northwest out of Blue River, but that doesn’t mean he kept going that direction because it was a very short radar burst then he disappeared off of radar,” said Calvert.
“At this point, anything people heard or saw on the ground becomes very important for us as a clue.”
According to a family statement made last year by the Pickard’s sons, Matthew and James Pickard, their father Geoff was an experienced pilot who’d flown the route many times.
“He was a cautious and careful pilot,” and known to be “risk-averse” who had a history of cancelling flight plans over poor flying conditions.
It’s possible the weather changed quickly while flying over the Rocky Mountains because it was clear and sunny when they left Edmonton, said James Pickard, in a follow-up interview.
After extensive efforts to find the couple and the plane, the search was officially called off on Sept. 20.