News

Search for missing Palo Alto flight instructor entails massive area of Pacific Ocean

U.S. Coast Guard called off search that would have emaciated resources, personnel

The search area of the Pacific Ocean for missing flight instructor William James McAdams is so vast that the U.S. Coast Guard called off formal operations in the hours after the plane he was flying vanished, a Coast Guard spokesman said Wednesday.

Twelve days after McAdams allegedly stole a 2011 G1000 Skyhawk 1TG, tail number N191TG, from his employer, Advantage Aviation, authorities still have no additional information about McAdams or the whereabouts of the plane, Palo Alto police Sgt. Brian Philip said on Wednesday.

McAdams allegedly took the aircraft on May 8 at 1 a.m. without permission and flew south. The last radar ping put him near the Mexican border about 70 miles out into the Pacific Ocean, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Palo Alto police.

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a "call-out" and began a search after being alerted that McAdams and the plane were missing, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Bill Colclough said. But once they identified the search area, the agency suspended any official search.

Given the speed of the aircraft, which was traveling at about 134 mph and the timeline of the last known position, the search area was deemed "unreasonable," Colclough said.

The plane could be in an area of about 120,000 square miles, he said.

"That's an extremely large area. Typically, we can search with a combination of aircraft and rescue boats an area between 100 and a couple of thousand square miles," Colclough said.

"We can saturate an area of that size," but to search the massive area would emaciate Coast Guard resources and personnel, he said.

The Coast Guard instead issued a safety-net message notice. The message went to all vessels and mariners to be on the lookout for the aircraft or for any person or persons associated with the plane, Colclough said.

If McAdams landed or crashed at sea, the water temperatures are cold, ranging from 50 to 70 degrees, Colclough said. The seas are variable, with a number of jetties and breakwaters in the area that can alter the effects of ocean waves and currents.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FAA and U.S. and Mexican coast guards have been apprised of the search for McAdams, with Palo Alto police taking the lead.

Police have not identified a motive for McAdams' sudden departure. But he faces three charges in Orange County, Florida, stemming from a "dating violence" incident with a woman in a resort hotel room on April 24, according to an arrest affidavit in that state.

McAdams faces two felonies for aggravated battery with a weapon and false imprisonment and one count of misdemeanor battery after an alleged argument with the unknown woman.

His family has said the accusations against him are out of character and they are devastated by the reports.

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by security
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2015 at 9:08 am

How much security does the Palo Alto Airport have? What if this guy was a terrorist who planned on crashing that airplane into a local school? Was stealing this airplane too easy?


Like this comment
Posted by Sad Story
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2015 at 9:14 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 21, 2015 at 10:29 am

@security, as I said on an associated thread, people do more damage with stolen SUVs.

Wondering where the 134 mph number came from. And the 120,000 square miles. Doesn't sound like much radar data. Don't know what information is meant by "radar ping" near the Mexican border, said earlier to be at 2:45am, less than two hours after take-off, which is about Santa Barbara at most. Apparently no emergency beacon was received. This episode could just remain a mystery forever, which may have been the intention.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2015 at 11:13 am

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by bignose
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Answering musical: The plane he took has a cruise speed that varies twixt 132 to 144 mph depending on how much throttle you give it. I guess they estimated 135 by looking at the radar returns for the part of the flight they had returns for. Schools/FBOs normally fill the tanks only up to the filler neck since they don't know how many passengers the next renter will have and there is a weight limit. That would give him 35 gallons at most since they know he didn't fill up (cameras on the field). At 135 mph he'ld be using around 8.5 gph so say he had at most 35/8.5 = 4.1 hours. They had radar returns for 1.75 hours so that meant 2.35 hours left in the air. 135 mph for 2.35 hours can reach anywhere in a 316000 square mile circle. In his case half of this is over land so the coast guard would ignore it. That leaves 158000 square miles to look. Winds were from the west that day (I don't remember how much) but that would have moved more of the circle over land and probably brought them down to 120000 sq miles. Plus Advantage would have known how much fuel was left in the plane (they keep track of how much its flown and when its filled up) and that may have been less than 35 gallons.

Answering security: Security is minimal, planes are locked but that's about it. Kind of moot though since any member in a school or FBO can take one of the planes he's allowed to rent whenever he/she wants so no amount of security would prevent this kind of theft.


8 people like this
Posted by Chance
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 21, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Sell the plane to one of the cartels? I'm sure there are some out-of-the-way airfields in Mexico where he could've landed. The mystery deepens.


5 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on May 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Thank you Big Nose. It is rare to see a comment on this site that is so well thought-out and informative.


7 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann, Staff Writer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

The 134 mph data came from the Coast Guard. It is 117 knots, converted to mph. The plane sent out an emergency signal, according to the Coast Guard, but it is unknown if the pilot activated it or if it was set off automatically by the plane if something had malfunctioned or the plane lost power.


2 people like this
Posted by SECURITY SUCKS
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Mr. "Security"

Who the H*** are you to say that this man is a terrorist?!!! First off, if he was, wouldn't he have (you said) crashed into a local school the first chance he got?! Ok 1-0 and you are down. This man is my friend, and he would never do such thing. He is a good man, a great friend and a wonderful uncle. SO BEFORE YOU GO AROUND SAYING THE "T" WORD, JUST THINK ABOUT WHO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. TREAT OTHERS HOW YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED!!!! Good day Mr. "Security"


6 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm

@Sad Story - Wow! A guy beats his girlfriend, breaks bail (somebody must have paid (and lost) this money), steals a plane and the only person we should be feeling compassion for is the thief? By that line of thinking nobody is responsible for their own wrongdoings - if you're having a bad day you can do anything you want and people should feel compassion for you regardless of the negative effect on others. Because you're having a bad day (or week, or month).

As for the insurance, do you imagine that the owner of the plane gets off scot-free (except for the minor inconvenience of course, of dealing with the insurance company)? Ever heard of a deductible? I'm sure it's sizable for an airplane.


3 people like this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 21, 2015 at 6:08 pm

@Security Sucks - security never suggested that the thief was a terrorist. If you read the post, it says "what if it had been a terrorist" meaning, that if your uncle could steal a plane that easily a terrorist might also be able to steal one.


4 people like this
Posted by SECURITY SUCKS
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2015 at 6:19 pm

@Wow!,

well if you have read my post, clearly you would have seen that i said he is my friend, clearly not my uncle. you got some great cali education backing you up. So far there have been enough articles posted about him, and NONE OF SUGGESTED HE WAS HARMING THE PUBLIC, IN FACT, THEY STATED HE WAS NO THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY. SO all i am saying is that before you say the "T" word, get your information straight cause there are rea TERRORIST out here i.e.: ISIS. LETS ALL STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW HE STOLE A PLANE, HAS 'DATING VIOLENCE' CHARGES, AND LETS FOCUS ON FINDING HIM AND GETTING HIM HOME SAFE!!!!!!!!! HE IS SOMEONE'S SON, SISTER, AND UNCLE!!!!!!! GOD FORBID ANY OF YA'LL WENT MISSING.....COME HOME WILL!!! <3 <3


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 21, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Thanks @bignose. I'd make similar educated guesses. Good point about investigators having fairly accurate knowledge of how much fuel was onboard, even if it hasn't been explicitly disclosed. And at the given speed, Tijuana is only 3 hours away, so Mexico is not as much a stretch as I originally thought.

We're left to speculate on radar transponder data, and whether or where it was turned off. And whether a low altitude was flown some distance off the coast to evade primary radar returns.

Thanks @Sue about the Coast Guard reporting the emergency signal. That gets a little technical (and out of my depth), as it could mean a generic tone at 121.5 MHz picked up on normal aviation-band radios, or a very specific code sent to search & rescue satellites at 406 MHz containing a registered serial number and possibly gps coordinates. N191TG was equipped for both frequencies. The signal is set off by the same kind of switch that activates your car's airbags. And the signal dies when the antenna goes under water.


2 people like this
Posted by Take it Easy
a resident of Palo Verde School
on May 21, 2015 at 8:34 pm

@Wow:

>> "Wow! A guy beats his girlfriend, jumps bail (somebody must have paid (and lost) this money), steals a plane and the only person we should be feeling compassion for is the thief? "

WHOA! Slow down! A person is innocent until proven guilty - he has not been proven guilty. You have absolutely no idea what happened - you are speculating based on a brief story in a small-time paper. Note that the "reporter" thought his unrelated (and unresolved) legal issue was more relevant than the fact that there was an emergency signal sent out by the plane.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED, OR WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES ARE AFFECTING THIS MAN'S ACTIONS. You are not qualified to be judge or jury in anything involving this case or this man.


2 people like this
Posted by Take it Easy
a resident of Palo Verde School
on May 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm

@SECURITY SUCKS:

Take a deep breath. I know there are people on this forum jumping to conclusions and posting stupid things, but the first poster, @security, isn't one of them. @security's point was that if someone could take a plane in the middle of the night so easily, what prevents a terrorist from doing the same thing, and crashing the plane into a local school or something. @security was not suggesting your friend is a terrorist.

My recommendation is to stop reading this forum and focus on finding your friend. On this forum you will mostly find a a judgmental bunch with nothing but time on their hands to draw conclusions and pontificate on issues with which they have very little information or expertise.

Godspeed finding your friend.


9 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 21, 2015 at 9:21 pm

@Take it Easy-
1. He was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment and the girl got a restraining order against him. That's a fact. He may not be proven guilty yet but I'm willing to bet that he wasn't an innocent- something bad happened to cause him to be arrested and to cause the girl to be fearful enough to need the restraining order.

2. He jumped bail. That's a fact. That action is illegal.

3. He stole a plane. That's a fact. Not only is that action illegal, it was morally wrong- the plane belonged to someone else. That person has been harmed.

We generally categorize all these behaviors as criminal. Every criminal has his sad story to tell. Just sayin...

Also, are you suggesting that there are some circumstances that would justify stealing a plane from somebody?


Like this comment
Posted by Take it Easy
a resident of Palo Verde School
on May 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm

@Wow:

>> "He may not be proven guilty yet but I'm willing to bet that he wasn't an innocent- something bad happened to cause him to be arrested and to cause the girl to be fearful enough to need the restraining order."

That is vigilante thinking. We have laws and courts to decide who is innocent and who is guilty. Being arrested does not mean someone is guilty. What if his "girlfriend" is a hysterical nutcase that wanted to get married and he turned her down?*Anyone* can get a restraining order - it's just a legal process. I'm not saying the charges are false, I'm saying we don't know and it is up to a judge and jury to decide. IT'S NOT UP TO YOU, WOW, TO DECIDE AND CONVICT.

A person in panic-mode can do a lot of things if they believe their survival or freedom is at stake. That doesn't make the person guilty of unproven accusations. It does make them guilty of running away and the associated crimes. Then again, for all we know someone threatened his life if he didn't take the plane.

We just don't KNOW. Pretending we do is absurd, especially given the source of "reporting."


2 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 21, 2015 at 10:52 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2015 at 1:17 am

Sparty is a registered user.

"How much security does the Palo Alto Airport have? What if this guy was a terrorist who planned on crashing that airplane into a local school? Was stealing this airplane too easy?"


Good point. It would be even more dangerous if this guy had stolen then crashed the plane into a school during school hours, instead of 1am.

We should put up a couple towers with M60s. With tracer rounds, that would be effective enough against small aircraft. Also ground crews with Stingers could be deployed just in case the tower crews weren't able to bring down stolen aircraft.

In terms of manpower cost, a Phalanx system might be more what we are looking for though. It could be mounted on top the the control tower, and a ordnance officer could be stationed there 24 hours a day to bring down any suspicious take offs.


Like this comment
Posted by Take it Easy
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2015 at 1:43 am

@Wow: I pray that if you ever find yourself in a frightening and unexpected situation you will be able to conduct yourself with a fully optimistic and stable way. You will stake your freedom on the criminal justice system and be 100% certain that if you are innocent, you will be found not-guilty.

I do not know William McAdams, and I cannot know what is going on with him or his situation, but every human being deserves to be considered innocent until a court of law determines him guilty, or not.


1 person likes this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 22, 2015 at 11:11 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by It's all a game...
a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2015 at 11:26 pm

People have been using Palo Alto airport to run drugs for decades~ but they conceal the fact, obviously. You won't see a big red X on their foreheads identifying who they are ~ . They seem to be your upright outstanding pilots. Just making a run every now and then. Perhaps (the plot thickens) that this latest episode had been sparked by some connection and temptation to deliver a plane to Mexico. Whatever. Your mind can wonder on many possibilities. Do hope the friend returns to the USA sooner or later to clean up his acts~ you can't run forever. Unless he may have really passed away somehow. Sad.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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