Search for missing Tacoma pilot suspended

Two weeks after he was reported missing, the Washington State Department of Transportation suspended the search for pilot Rod Collen.

Colleen was last seen on March 6 near Lake Quinalt and Queets. According to police he went out alone for a flight but never returned.

His flight recorded on Flight Radar 24, it shows Collen's 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane taking off from Tacoma Narrows Airport at 5:35 p.m. flying over Fox Island, but his signal dropped seven minutes into the flight over the Key Peninsula. 

Loved ones reported him missing, and a search quickly underway. Washington Department of Transportation's Search and Rescue Coordinator Thomas Peterson says they worked with the Air Force Radar Forensic Team to look for signals and used military radars which indicated the plane flew for 36 more minutes after its signal dropped.

FOX 13 asked why and how the plane could've gone offline and continued flying.

Peterson said, "smaller planes we fly, have a magneto ignition system, so you can lose all electrical power and the engine will continue to run. His [Collen] aircraft was a modern one with a glass cockpit or digital displays, and they require a lot of power. If there's a problem with the power system, like the alternator, you could lose all that. So it's not unheard of that people would have problems where their radio equipment failed or they're in-flight, and they were able to continue to a destination."

Search and rescue teams are now looking for the 15-year pilot over a 36 square mile area in the rugged forest land near Queets.
However, Peterson says rain, turbulence and snow are hindering their efforts.

"That's kind of a distracter because we're looking for parts of a white airplane down in the trees, and we're finding lots of snow; that kind of as a false positive, if you will, over and over again," Peterson said.

Peterson says radar data paired with altitude information indicates there was a rapid "nose dive like" descent.

"There are a lot of reasons for why this probably could have happened from the pilot perspective," Peterson said. "Looking at his past flights, he looks like he's a pretty good pilot. He's flown to Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe and then other places in the country in the airplane."

According to family, Collen went out alone. It's still unclear what led up moments to his disappearance.

"There wasn't a filed flight plan and that's not required to go fly around," Peterson said. "There was no indication or information from the family that said he wanted to go to ‘X’ or ‘Y’ and so he was just out on the flight.

According to WSDOT, barring new leads or developments, no additional aerial searches are planned.