Approaching darkness on Wednesday halted the search for a small plane — piloted by a Solvang man — that disappeared two days earlier while en route from the Santa Ynez Airport to Mammoth Lakes.
The single-engine aircraft departed Santa Ynez, where it was based, shortly before noon Monday, according to Shawn Knight, president of the Santa Ynez Airport Authority, which oversees the airport.
The plane disappeared from radar at about 12:30 p.m. near the North Dome area of Yosemite National Park, according to park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.
“They’re done for the day,” Cobb said at 4:30 p.m. “It’s starting to get too dark to fly aircraft.”
The search, involving four aircraft, was to resume Thursday, Cobb said.
Cobb identified the pilot, the only person believed to be on board, as Nicol Wilson, who is in his late 60s.
FAA records show that a Mooney M20F aircraft — a four-seat, propeller-driven plane — is registered to a Nicol S. Wilson of Solvang.
Wilson was reported missing Monday night by his family when he failed to show up at the Mammoth airport, Cobb said.
North Dome is along the Tioga Pass Road, in an area that is closed this time of year due to snow, and is inaccessible by vehicle and on foot, Cobb said.
Cloudy and snowy weather hampered the search for the aircraft Tuesday, but conditions Wednesday were much improved, Cobb said.
Two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters were involved in the search, Cobb said.
“We’ll continue searching throughout the day,” Cobb said earlier Wednesday. “Visibility is very good, so hopefully that will help.”
No signal has been detected from the plane’s emergency locator transmitter, Knight said, “which has made the search more difficult.”
Cobb noted that the area received a new layer of snow Monday and Tuesday, which also is hampering the search.
“We really have no idea,” she said. “The plane may not even be in the park.”
Knight said Wilson wasn’t particularly well known around the small airfield, but folks there remained concerned.
“We’re just playing a waiting game, like everyone else, and hoping for the best,” he said.