Man and dog aboard small plane missing in northern Alberta

Crews continue to search an expanse of land north and west of Edmonton Tuesday looking for a small plane that disappeared without a trace during a flight across northern Alberta.

The plane and pilot 40-year-old Scott Schneider were last seen leaving Edson on Sunday

Scott Schneider is pictured with his dogs, Gus and Bella. Schneider, along with his chocolate lab, Gus, were on board a Cessna 172 that went missing Sunday evening. The plane's last known position was at Edson at 5:20 p.m. Sunday. (Stephanie Bruntz)

Editor's note: On Aug. 16., Scott Schneider was found dead in a plane wreck south of Oldman Lake, Alta., about 100 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. 

Crews continue to search an expanse of land north and west of Edmonton for a small plane that disappeared without a trace during a flight across northern Alberta.

The Cessna 172 was reported missing after the pilot failed to show up for work on Monday, the Royal Canadian Air Force said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. The pilot has been identified by friends and family as Scott Schneider.

"We're just pleading and praying for someone to find him so we can hopefully see him again," said Schneider's sister, Stephanie Bruntz.

Only Schneider, 40, and his dog were aboard the plane when it disappeared on Sunday evening.

Bruntz said she had been texting with her brother on Sunday afternoon but did not discuss his travel plans. 

"It wasn't until Monday evening that we were notified that he had not shown up for work that day, which I can guarantee that's the first time that's ever happened in his entire life," she said.

The single-engine plane was scheduled to fly from Jasper to Westlock but stopped in Edson along the way, said Capt. Dave Bowes with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria.

At 5:20 p.m. Sunday, the aircraft departed Edson, its last known flight position.

It was due to land in Westlock at 7 p.m. but did not arrive and there has been no contact with the pilot, RCMP Cpl. Chris Warren told CBC News. 

Residents and motorists between Edson and Westlock who may have seen a small plane in flight between 4:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Sunday are encouraged to contact police.

Bart Bikker, who knew the missing pilot, thinks smoky conditions may have played a part in Schneider's disappearance. 

"With all the smoke and everything the visibility was maybe not the best," said Bikker. "And he flew quite a bit but he's only had his licence for a couple of years."

The air force began searching along the likely route on Monday afternoon, dispatching military and volunteer aircraft and notifying Westlock RCMP that a single-engine plane and its pilot were overdue in the area.

The ongoing search is being co-ordinated by JRCC Trenton. 

A CC-130 Hercules military aircraft from Winnipeg and a Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopter from CFB Cold Lake were involved in the search.

Volunteer crews with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) in Edmonton are also involved. 

"I can tell you, it's a very small search area, relative to most of the searches we do," Bowes said.

The plane was equipped with an emergency beacon but search and rescue officials say there is no indication the device was activated.

'A full-blown search'

Bill Dimmer, the provincial training officer for CASARA in Alberta, said his crews are working with the military, using spotters to scour the terrain for any sign of the missing aircraft. 

Six civilian aircraft are on standby in the search, he said.

"There is a full-blown search in the area he might have been in," Dimmer said.

"We may be looking for an airplane, we may be looking for some signals from the ground, we may be looking for any number of marks on trees or marks on the ground." 

RCMP are searching a large area north of Edmonton for a Cessna 172, similar to the one pictured above. (Fernie.com)

Other private pilots should avoid flying in the area because they could interfere in the search effort, Dimmer said.

"When we're searching, we're very busy looking at the ground. And we have very specific patterns and navigation things that we must observe, so anyone else that's in the area can only cause havoc." 

Small planes used to disappear without a trace fairly regularly before the advent of GPS trackers and beacons, Dimmer said. 

"It's happening less and less ... people don't get lost and people don't get confused about what they're doing anymore."

RCMP have asked landowners and farmers in the Evansburg, Mayerthorpe, Barrhead and Westlock areas to check their land for any sign of the missing plane. 

The privately operated plane is white with black and red stripes, police said. 

Westlock is about 90 kilometres north of Edmonton.


  • An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information, provided by the Department of National Defence, about the date the plane departed Edson, Alta.
    Aug 14, 2018 4:48 PM MT

With files from Nola Keeler