The NTSB National Transportation Safety Board has ruled the Steve Fossett crash was likely caused by downdrafts in the California area where he was lost some two years ago after starting a trip from a Nevada airfield.
Unaddressed in the report were the reasons for the delay in verifying the time of the call with the telephone company. Excessive reliance on the ranchhand’s recollection diverted search resources, both official and private.
Also unaddressed is the pilot’s skill level and knowledge about mountain flying in general and recovery from downdrafts in areas of rising terrain at or near the aircraft’s service ceiling.
Partly for the reasons you state I’m even starting to wonder about the human/money ROI on SAR in general. When the Kims and their adorable children were stranded in the Oregon Wilderness it was easy to make a case that we should spare no expense and even a lot of human risk to find them. However that case weakens when you are looking for adventurers who know and enjoy the risks they take, let alone looking for a boozed up guy out poaching deer.
If we announced “no rescues in this area” it’s even possible we’d have fewer deaths because people would not assume as they do now that there will be rescuers.
There is always a tradeoff. In rural areas where tourism is a big money-maker, try instituting a no-search policy. The merchants know their tills will soon be empty.
Its difficult when you have an impaired patient who is wearing neither a bracelet nor a beeper. Its difficult when you have skilled people who nevertheless need rescue. Its difficult when you have a clearly assumed risk. Most snowmobilers intentionally challenge a snow covered slope and then get into trouble when they find they can’t outrun the avalance.
Fosset was an exceptionally skilled pilot with good glider training so he probably had very good knowledge of mountain flying and of his plane’s capabilities.
There is always a risk to searchers. Technology helps to diminish that risk, but life is not a cacoon and funds are not unlimited.
>”…If we announced “no rescues in this area” it’s even possible we’d have fewer deaths because people would not assume as they do now that there will be rescuers…”
That policy didn’t seem to work too well as Katrina approached New Orleans. Where would you post the signs about no rescue… on the roadsign the Kim’s missed?
Is posting a ‘no rescue’ sign better than posting a ‘This way to the coast; this way to Oblivion and Desolation’ sign.
Note: It really should also be borne in mind that the vast majority of the search expenses were privately handled.