The search for Andrew Lindberg of Farmington ended tragically today when the wreckage of the Farmington man’s plane was found in Clearwater County.
Searchers have been looking for Lindberg since he failed to arrive at a hunting outing in Hallock on Friday.
Now the only unanswered question is: What happened? Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will have a better idea when they get their first glance at the wreckage. Wreckage scattered over some distance might indicate an attempt at an emergency landing. Wreckage in a small area might indicate what investigators refer to as “controlled flight into terrain.”
It probably wasn’t the former. First, there was no radio transmission. Second, the wreckage was found 21 miles southeast of Mahnomen. In the route map below (click for larger view), the orange line is the route. The airplane (denoted by the “X”) was found along that line. An emergency would’ve led the pilot to turn toward two nearby airports, or turn back toward Park Rapids. He apparently didn’t.
A possible factor is the difficulty of flying in the conditions, considering the terrain. It was night-time, there was no moon, and this is the terrain (via Google Earth):
It’s also near the Chippewa National Forest. There would’ve been almost no lights visible on the ground. There was no moon on Friday. It wouldn’t have appeared over the horizon in Mahnomen until 5:13 Saturday morning. It would have been difficult to detect the horizon. There’s also plenty of swamps and water in the area, and the air temperature was cooling. The temperature/dewpoint spread around that time was less than 2 degrees in Mahnomen. That means fog was likely forming, too.
These are conditions that are challenging for even the most experienced pilot. They would have more so, of course, for a pilot with very little experience. Mr. Lindberg got his pilot’s certificate in September, according to reports.