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Where is Jake Harrell? Search for Missing Pilot Enters Day 5

ODEN, AR - More than 200 people continued the search by air and by ground for a pilot last seen on Jan. 31.
ODEN, AR - More than 200 people continued the search for a pilot last seen on Jan. 31.

Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot, Jake Harrell, went missing while he was looking for wildfires to fight.

Fifteen aircraft picked up the search on Wednesday, which entered day fie. The search planes included nine from Civil Air Patrol, four AFC planes, a State Police Helicopter, and two National Guard helicopters.

Some 75 hours alone were flown by aircraft on Monday, not including hours flown by the National Guard.

At a staging area in Oden, a crew was on standby Wednesday afternoon waiting for searchers up in the air to spot something they would then locate from the ground.

Clearer conditions gave search crews a break in the mountainous Western Arkansas terrain.

As planes and helicopters look from above, teams from the Montgomery and Polk County Sheriff's Offices join the ground search.

Wednesday -- the search area expanded to 800 acres south and west of the Oden where Harrell called in a radio check last Friday.

"This hits home for everybody that's involved," says Troy Hogue, chair of Henderson State University's School of Aviation, where Harrell had been a student and instructor. "We're constantly praying,"

Hogue describes Harrell as a great guy and experienced pilot.

A husband and father, Harrell was flying a wildfire scouting mission in a single engine Cessna when weather began to deteriorate. Searchers assume he went down unexpectedly.

"It could be a mechanical issue," says Hogue.

But fellow pilots say there's no telling what happened until Harrell is found.

"It could be a bird strike. Who knows what's caused this to occur," he says.

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