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Better weather, mapping software aid missing-pilot search

By Rachel Hook

This article was published February 10, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.

Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot Jake Harrell

Forestry officials remained positive Monday as they entered their 11th day of searching for one of their pilots who disappeared in western Arkansas while checking for wildfires.

In a statement Monday morning, Arkansas Forestry Commission spokesman Adriane Barnes said the temporary reprieve from winter precipitation, as well as the help of multiple state agencies and volunteers, have abetted the search efforts for 34-year-old Jake Harrell of North Little Rock.

Harrell, who is also a North Little Rock police officer, disappeared Jan. 31 after checking in with dispatchers in Oden. Search-and-rescue teams have since been scouring the area, as weather permits, for the pilot and his plane.

To make the search more efficient, the agency's Geographic Information Systems technicians, with the support of the Arkansas Geographic Information Office staff members, are using mapping software to correlate Harrell's previous activity with potential flight paths he may have taken after Oden, which is in Montgomery County.

The programs "work to generate spatial analysis amid information layers including: Jake’s known flight route, the routine detection route for that area, radar information provided by his cell phone provider, areas that have been searched by ground crews and air routes, leads from local residents, sightings provided by local residents, and speculation from experts about how or why Jake may have changed his flight route," Barnes said.

Barnes said the agency is also using drone and satellite technology in its search.

"With this many elements incorporated into a single visual resource, the search operation continues to build factual evidence that fuels a more organized search," according to a statement from Barnes.

Barnes said the search for Harrell would continue Monday "until weather shuts down operations."

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