A quick thinking air traffic controller at Van Nuys Airport noted a nearby LAFD helicopter in flight and asked them to check the vicinity of Mulholland Drive and Stone Canyon, east of the 405 freeway, after a small, single engine airplane disappeared from flight radar shortly after 8 PM on April 29, 2023.
Despite darkness a half-hour after sunset, and with thickening fog at ground level, LAFD airborne and ground personnel worked tirelessly to systematically search several square miles of mountainous terrain between the communities of Sherman Oaks and Bel Air.
It is important to note that there were no 911 calls received, and that no nearby residents in the region independently reported any loud sound or other evidence of an aircraft emergency.
LAFD dispatchers worked concurrently with FAA air traffic controllers at Van Nuys Airport, Burbank Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and specialists at the United States Air Force Rescue Coordination Center - as well as the known cell phone carrier of the pilot, in an attempt to pinpoint the flight path and location of the downed aircraft, which was emitting a weak signal from its Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).
Though thick fog prevented the continued use of search aircraft, more than four dozen LAFD personnel continue to systematically search the area in a grid-like manner in response to progressive intelligence from the aforementioned agencies.
The severely damaged aircraft and deceased adult male pilot were discovered by LAFD responders shortly after 11 PM, on a steep hillside covered in thick vegetation between Beverly Glen Circle and Mulholland Drive, near a DWP water tank that was not damaged in the crash.
No other injuries were reported.
After securing the aircraft, LAFD responders returned after dawn to assist the Coroner’s Office with the discreet and dignified recovery of the pilot’s remains. A private contractor is expected to move the airplane's remnants early May 1, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is formally investigating the crash.
A positive identification of the pilot, as well as the specific cause, time and manner of his death, will be determined by the Coroner’s office.