It's a terrifying thought: going down in a plane. It's a situation that is likely real for Trista Meyer, 34, her daughter, Shyann Lenz, 9, and Meyer's boyfriend and the pilot, Matt Ahrens, 37. Experts say a search for any missing aircraft is difficult. "Gotta try and narrow it down first, that's the biggest problem," Civil Air Patrol Incident Commander Mike Beason said.
According to family and friends, the trio was traveling from Bakersfield, California, refueled in Fillmore, Utah and then took off bound for Gillette, Wyoming. In the search for any aircraft, Beason says it's about retracing the plane's path. "We'll follow that route that the pilot said he's going to fly," he said. If they're lucky rescue workers will be able to use a device called an Emergency Locater Beacon or ELB. "That signal will help narrow down where the plane crashed," Beason said. Except, it doesn't always work that way. In fact, sometimes the ELB doesn't work at all. "Because of the nature of the crash or potentially the batteries aren't in good shape," Beason added. Fortunately, it's not a situation that local Civil Air Patrol members and the Pennington County Search and Rescue team encounter regularly. "We don't do a whole lot of downed aircraft," Tammy Stadel with Pennington County Search and Rescue said.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in the last decade there were fewer small plane crashes, however more people have died in those crashes. The causes vary greatly. this time of year problems can ensue because of the weather. Pilot inexperience also contributes to the number of crashes, along with aircraft mechanical problems. All factors that may or may not have contributed to the disappearance of the Gillette family.