SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) — Officials are searching the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a single-engine airplane that went missing Monday. The plane was reported missing south of the Sevierville Airport. Park officials received the report of the missing aircraft around 7:35 p.m. Park rangers are working with the Civil Air Patrol to find the missing plane.
A family member tells Local 8 News, three people were on the plane. Family tells us David Starling was the pilot. His girlfriend, Kim Smith, and his son, 8-year-old Hunter Starling, were on board.
Officials say the missing plane is reported to be a Cessna 182 fixed wing single-engine aircraft. The flight was coming from Florida and was bound for the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport. Officials have reported that the plane was in conversations with air traffic controllers at McGhee Tyson Airport, but there is no additional information on theses conversations. They say it potentially went down somewhere in the ridges southwest of Mount LeConte Lodge.
Civil Air Patrol conducted an aerial reconnaissance flight late Monday to locate the plane using the emergency locator transmitter, but they weren’t able to find any transmissions from the aircraft.
Overnight, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center used information from McGhee Tyson Airport tower radar and the plane’s emergency locator transmitter to find a specific area where the plane is most likely located. On Tuesday, ground search teams were sent to Bearpen Hollow Branch and areas southwest of the Bullhead Trail to search for the aircraft. The park is coordinating with TEMA to arrange for a reconnaissance flight as soon as the weather clears.