Pilot, plane disappears after exiting Gig Harbor Airport – Gig Harbor Now

Municipal Police & Fire Department

A pilot and his plane are missing after taking off from Tacoma Narrows Airport Monday night.

Rodney Collen, 52, departed Gig Harbor Airport at 5:35 p.m. Monday, March 6, according to flight tracking records. The Tacoma man turned his 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane west and flew over Fox Island and Carr Inlet before disappearing from radar at 5:43 p.m. near Herron and Tiedman Straits on the Key Peninsula

missing person report

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement to Gig Harbor Now on Friday.

“The Federal Aviation Administration alerted local public safety agencies to a missing single-engine Cessna 182 on Monday, March 6,” said spokeswoman Eva Lee Ngai. “Only the pilot was on board. The plane departed Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, Wash., around 5:30 p.m. local time and was not located. The registration number is N24289. Please contact local authorities for information on how to search.”

Tacoma Police Department received a missing persons report from Collen’s wife at 6:31 p.m. Monday, spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said. She said her husband had not been seen since 6:12 a.m. that morning and was acting unusually. Police contacted the airport where Collen is keeping the plane. His car was there, but the plane wasn’t there.

The plane’s flight was tracked until the system went dead over the Key Peninsula. The FAA and Air Force sent out search planes, and the Pierce County sheriff’s deputy unsuccessfully searched the area where the tracker went off, Haddow said. The case was assigned to a Tacoma Police Department detective.

“We’re investigating whether something happened to Mr. Collen, or maybe he just chose not to be contacted,” Haddow said. “They’ll follow any leads they get, but until someone comes up with something new or someone finds something, I don’t know what the next steps will be.”

Haddow encouraged anyone with information about Collen’s disappearance or who remembers anything from March 6 that they think is relevant to call 911.

visual flight rules

Airport manager Rod Propst said Friday he believes Collen is a tenant at the airport, renting a hangar there from a private company, not Pierce County. He hadn’t heard from the missing plane and pilot until one of his colleagues mentioned reading about it on social media Friday morning.

“I didn’t hear a word, which is interesting because nobody called and asked us anything,” he said.

If Collen flies under visual flight rules, which most flights are, he would simply ask to depart in a certain direction, and once out of airport airspace he would be on his own, Propst said. If flying under IFR, he would file a flight plan with a destination, be on the FAA’s air traffic system, and be in radar and voice contact with an air traffic control agency.

“From what I’ve heard, that didn’t happen,” Propst said. “He was only VFR.”

All aircraft carry distress beacons. An Air Force satellite can ping such a device. Propst said he was surprised it didn’t come into play.

“For us at the airport, it’s as big a mystery as it is for everyone else,” he said.

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