JOHN DAY – Persistent pings from an emergency locator transmitter triggered a search for a downed aircraft last week, ending with the discovery of a plane overturned off a private runway near Monument.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said the episode began about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, when the Oregon Joint Operations Center notified dispatchers about the ELT signals.
The state center had received a call from the Florida-based Air Force Rescue Center, reporting multiple signals picked up by over-flying aircraft from Kimberly, Pendleton and Pasco, Wash.
The Sheriff’s Office activated Grant County Air Search to begin a search. A private plane piloted by Bob Bagett, with Robert Watt as navigator and Ron Lundbom as spotter, launched when light allowed about 7:30 a.m.
The transmissions initially focused the search on an area north of the Widows Creek burn, between Mt. Vernon and Dayville.
The terrain is relatively open and when no sign of the plane turned up, the local searchers were recalled.
However, officials kept getting signals consisting of two false pings and one positive ping. Palmer said as long as one of the three is positive, a search is required for the source of the signal.
After further communication between the Sheriff’s Office and the state center, the Civil Air Patrol was activated.
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, a Civil Air Patrol mission located a 1979 Cessna flipped on its top at a private landing strip off Lost Hub Cap Lane, 12 miles southeast of Monument. No one was at the scene.
Palmer said evidence indicated the plane veered off the runway and flipped, coming to rest on its top with a steel post through the windshield.
The plane’s owner was listed as John Habberstadt of Liberty Lake, Wash. Officials determined no one was injured in the incident.
Palmer said his office had received reports the previous day about a plane trying to land in high winds at a different airstrip, in Monument. He said the plane matched the description of the one found overturned later.