BELLINGHAM — A 28-year-old Bellingham man and his passenger were safe Sunday after crash-landing a small plane Saturday night nearly 8,000 feet high on the south side of Mount Baker. Both the pilot and passenger, whose names were not released, were rescued from the snow-covered volcano by snowmobilers who saw the wreck, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. Neither pilot or passenger were injured.
The plane was a described as a Piper PA-18, a two-seat single-engine aircraft manufactured in 1953. It was registered to the 208 Corp. of Seattle, according to the FAA. A photograph with the FAA’s online registry showed it was painted bright yellow. Details of the crash were sketchy, said Mike Fergus, spokesman for the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region. He said the plane made what was described as an emergency landing. “There was substantial damage to the aircraft,” Fergus said.
The state Transportation Department and possibly the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident. Officials from those agencies did not return phone calls Sunday afternoon.
Renee Bodine, public affairs officer for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, said she could not recall if a plane has ever crashed on Mount Baker. The incident began as an aircraft was reported missing Saturday night by family members who said the pilot had not returned from his trip to take photos of Mount Baker. About the same time, the Transportation Department’s Aviation Division was alerted to an emergency beacon from a downed aircraft.
A crew from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station was scrambled to search for the lost plane.
Meanwhile, law-enforcement officials in Whatcom County received reports about 7:20 p.m. Saturday of both a snowmobile accident and a plane crash or forced landing at Schreibers Meadow, a popular recreation area south of the 10,781-foot Mount Baker.
Although much of the land in the Mount Baker National Recreation Area is designated wilderness and off-limits to vehicles, there is a small portion that’s open to snowmobilers. It’s accessible only by unpaved roads from Whatcom County on the west and by U.S. Forest Service roads and hiking trails on the southeast side via Skagit County.
When search-and-rescue personnel arrived at Schreibers Meadow, they learned that injured snowmobilers had been taken off the mountain by friends. Information on the extent of their injuries was unknown.
Search and rescue personnel proceeded toward the signal from the plane’s emergency beacon on the Deming Glacier at the 7,800-foot level.
When they reached the plane, it was empty. Officials learned later that snowmobilers had transported the pilot off the mountain.
It was unknown how the plane was to be removed from the glacier. Bodine said that typically, debris must be packed out of wilderness areas unless a special permit can be obtained for motorized vehicles.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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