Radar data shows a plane, still considered missing, flying over Cook Inlet just before it presumably crashed and killed its pilot in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB's preliminary report on the incident says investigators think Palmer resident Brendan Mattingly took off from Soldotna about 1:30 a.m. that Saturday in his red, white and green Piper PA-18 Super Cub. A taxi driver reported dropping Mattingly off at the Soldotna Airport sometime before that, either Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to Alaska State Troopers.
An examination of radar data by the Alaska Air National Guard's rescue Coordination Center showed the plane take off and turn west, then head northeast over land, turning again until it was over Cook Inlet, the report says. The radar showed the plane's last known position at about 2:50 a.m. over the middle of the inlet about 30 miles north of Soldotna, according to the report.
"We're not absolutely sure it's that airplane," said NTSB investigator Clint Johnson. "But it's a high likelihood."
It's unclear if Mattingly, a student-rated pilot with 200 to 250 hours of flight time, had trained to fly over water at night, Johnson said.
Mattingly's family reported him overdue the morning of Oct. 14, initiating a search by the Coast Guard, Alaska Air National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, troopers and private pilots. The official search was called off Oct. 23, though family members and other civilians continue to look for Mattingly.
According to the Alaska Air National Guard, the plane was not equipped with a newer model emergency beacon trackable by satellite. No beacon signal has been picked up, the report says.
The NTSB report says Mattingly "is presumed to have received fatal injuries, and the airplane is presumed to have sustained substantial damage."
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE