Tacoma Pilot Missing After Plane's Signal Disappears During Flight

Photo: Courtesy of Rod Collen's family

Authorities are searching for a 15-year pilot from Tacoma, Washington after he went missing during a flight last week, according to FOX 13 Seattle.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said 52-year-old Rod Colleen was last seen on Monday, March 6 going on a solo flight with his 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane. Records show his plane took off from Tacoma Narrows Airport at 5:35 p.m. and was flying over Fox Island. His signal vanished seven minutes into the flight over Key Peninsula, WSDOT's Search and Rescue Coordinator Thomas Peterson said.

After his family reported him missing, the Washington State Department of Transportation's Search and Rescue team started looking for him alongside the Air Force Radar Forensic Team. Crews have been searching in a heavily-forested area near Queets, according to officials. Rain, snow, and turbulence have hampered their air-based efforts, so far.

"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 told reporters.

Radar data combined with altitude information indicates the plane took a rapid "nosedive-like descent," he added.

"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."

What makes Collen's disappearance more mysterious is that investigators have no idea where he was heading.

"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," the search and rescue coordinator noted.

Despite the obstacles, officials said this remains a search and rescue mission. They're also thinking about expanding their search on foot starting Monday, March 20.

Collen's family has also posted about his disappearance on Facebook, including a picture of him and his plane.

"This is obviously a hard time for many of us since many people love and care about Rod," their statement reads. "We understand and really appreciate the concern but ask that you respect the privacy of Rod’s family and allow them the space the process the situation. Thank you for your understanding."

WSDOT will deliver an update on the search operation at 10 a.m. Monday.

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