Search For Missing Forestry Pilot Ongoing During Winter Weather

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A state Forestry Commission pilot went missing Friday while flying a plane over Montgomery County, prompting several state and local agencies to join in a search.

The missing pilot is 34-year-old Jake Harrell.

The wildfire detection plane was last heard from at 1:11 p.m. Friday (Jan. 31) near Oden in Montgomery County, said Adriane Barnes with the Arkansas Forestry Commission. She said the pilot was on a regularly-flown detection route covering a western portion of the state, which can be rough terrain.

"We’ve got lots of mountains, lots of steep areas, heavy brush and pine trees," Barnes said. "What’s also going on here is we’ve got a lot of remaining debris from the ice storm."

Harrell's route was taking him from Oden to Wickes. Wickes is located in Polk County, about 25 miles south of Mena.

A command post for search and rescue efforts has been set up at the Forestry Service Office in Mena.

Barnes said Harrell, a seasoned pilot, was flying the single-engine Cessna 210.

"It’s a small single-engine plane with a propeller on the front of it," Barnes said. "These planes are off-white and they’ve got little orange stripes on the wings."

Helicopters from the Arkansas State Police and Arkansas National Guard ground crews began searching Saturday morning at daylight, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Members of the forestry commission said they will be looking day and night until they find Harrell.

"Jake’s a family man, a policeman and pilot," Joe Fox said. "He gives back way more than what he’s taken."

Stay with for updates on this developing story.


  • fly at your own risk

    Pilots of these small planes should carry a small parachute in case they have to bail out. In this part of the country there’s no where to land because of the mountainous terrain in case of an emergengy. You have to take your chances with the trees….not good.

    Hope he’s okay and they find him soon.

  • Juliet Abernathy

    So a small plane at 678 Kennedy Rd. flying very low about 1230 that day heading west could not hear the motor.

  • Juliet Abernathy

    A small plane passing at 678 Kennedy Rd. flying tree top high about 1230 that day heading west could not hear the motor, gliding……..

    • Paul

      Julie, if you would, please list the full address so that we can map it. The plane he’s in has orange wings and tail, and a white and black fuselage. The wing is on top of the plane, and the wheels retract, so they may now have been visible. Does this describe what you saw?? I flew with Jake for years and we really need to find him. Thanks for anything you can tell us!

  • Paul

    I just need a city/town name, or a nearby intersection that we can plot on the map, you don’t have to give out any personal information. Thanks!

  • Paul

    Evidently she’s already spoken to one of the investigators from the Commission. Thank you for the assistance, Susan.

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