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Alaska Air National Guard Joins Search for Japanese Balloonist
HC-130 Hercules concentrates search 420 miles south of Adak


January 04, 2008
Monday PM

The Alaska Air National Guard is assisting in the search for a missing Japanese hot-air balloonist.

The U.S. Coast Guard officially requested the help of the Alaska Air National Guard over the weekend to search for Japanese balloonist Michio Kanda.

On Sunday, Feb. 3, around 6 a.m. the 211th Rescue Squadron launched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage. The HC-130 flew to Shemya to refuel before heading south another two hours to the search area.

According to the Rescue Coordination Center, the search area is about 420 miles south of Adak.

"We're using his last known coordinates, tide tables, and upper airflow analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and U.S. Coast Guard buoys to narrow down the search area," said Capt. Jeffrey Meinel, of the Rescue Coordination Center. "He had a survival pod with him in the balloon, so we're conducting a parallel search based on visibility to look for this pod."

The survival pod is described as six-and-a-half feet high, with approximately one-third of it out of the water. The Rescue Coordination Center received reports that Kanda, 58, had an emergency locator transmitter on the balloon as well; however, no one has received a signal from it.

The Alaska Air National Guard's HC-130 had enough fuel to search for four hours on Sunday before heading back to Shemya. It launched again around noon Monday to search another four hours. The plan calls for the aircraft to return to Kulis Air National Guard Base after the four-hour search is complete.

The U.S. Coast Guard District 17 out of Juneau is leading the search operation and will determine the next step if nothing is found again Monday.

Kanda was attempting to travel 5,600 miles from Tochigi, Japan, to Portland, Ore., in a hot-air balloon. He was last heard from Thursday when he called his support team via satellite phone.



Source of News:

Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs, Alaska National Guard


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