On Sunday, March 13, 2011, Grand Canyon Airport south of Grand Canyon National Park received a report from a general aviation pilot of an activated emergency locator transmitter (also known as an ELT).
The airport immediately notified the National Park Service (NPS) because the ELT had been detected approximately 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village in the vicinity of the Fossil Corridor within Grand Canyon National Park. The park’s helicopter flew the area in the vicinity of the reported ELT activation, but did not find any signs of a downed plane nor did they detect the beacon. Because no corresponding report of a missing plane could be found, the search was called off at that point.
On Monday, March 14, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) contacted the NPS about a missing person – 47-year old Joseph Radford of Glendale, Arizona. In the course of their investigations, the sheriff’s office had determined that Mr. Radford owned a red, RV-6 homebuilt, experimental aircraft which was also missing. In addition, they had determined that Mr. Radford’s plane was seen at Grand Canyon Airport shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 11.
Based on radar tracking information from Friday, the NPS helicopter concentrated search efforts in the Scorpion Ridge area, located in the vicinity of the Dragon Corridor, on Monday; and on Tuesday, the park’s helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft both flew search patterns in the Fossil Corridor and Scorpion Ridge areas with no success. Meanwhile, the CCSO continued their investigations and began contacting backpackers known to have been to these areas to see if anyone had seen or heard the plane on Friday.
(UPDATE) The search for N650RV was officially suspended on April 1, 2011 pending new leads to the investigation.
Missing aircraft RV-6 (N650RV), serial number 23971, was built by Mr. Radford in 2009. The aircraft was powered by a Lycoming O-360-A1A 180hp engine. The aircraft was an experimental home-built kit with 2-place seating.
Based on the antennas visible in the photograph, the aircraft was equipped with two communication radios, a GPS receiver, and an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).
The aircraft was based at Glendale Airport, but was photographed during 2009 at Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) Arizona.
A typical instrument panel layout for a Van's Aircraft RV-6 is shown in this photograph.
Since each RV aircraft is custom built by the owner, a variety of options and avionics are available making each aircraft unique to it's builder.
Joseph R. Radford age 47, was the owner and pilot of the missing RV-6.
Mr. Radford belonged to the Pilots N Paws Organization which helps transport needy animals in need of medical care.
Joe Radford was well known and liked by many at the Glendale Airport.
NEW TECHNOLOGY IN THE SEARCH
On March 31, 2011, The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) brought in two aircraft to search for the missing RV-6.
One of the CAP aircraft was equipped with high resolution video camera equipment.
The video equipment, a high resolution camera and video down-link antenna is actually identical to that used on the un-manned Military Predator Aircraft.
This was the first time that this technology has been used in attempt to locate a missing aircraft. The video will be analyzed to see if any aircraft wreckage was recorded during the CAP's two day search mission.