Search On For Plane Missing In Champlain Since 1971


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George Nikita, the pilot of a corporate jet that is believed to have crashed into icy Lake Champlain in January, 1971New search efforts have begun for the missing private jet that disappeared into Lake Champlain in the winter of 1971 that was carrying two crew members and three passengers.

A new high-tech search using modern techniques, sophisticated side-scanning sonars, underwater vehicles and a submarine will take place.  This search will be a combined effort between the New York State Police, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Vermont State Police.  Boating traffic in the search area will be restricted during search operations.

On the evening of January 27, 1971, a 10-passenger, twin engine, private jet left from Burlington on a flight to Providence, Rhode Island during a snow storm.

The Rockwell Jet Commander, N400CP, owned by real estate agency Cousin’s Properties of Atlanta, Georgia, had appeared at around 5,000 feet on one radar blip then was gone on the very next sweep just seconds later.

Early the next morning, searchers in planes lead by the Civil Air Patrol were in the air in extremely cold temperatures.  The lake still had open water but no fuel slick and no wreckage was spotted.  Four days later the lake froze over, sealing any evidence under many inches of ice until the following spring.

In April of 1971, small pieces of N400CP floated on shore in Shelburne, Vermont.  As soon as most of the ice was off the lake, a search commenced for N400CP.  However, a submarine, sonar, and infrared search of Lake Champlain turned up nothing.

When Malaysian Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, it sparked several individuals to reflect back on the disappearance of N400CP.  In the weeks since early March a great many state and volunteer agencies and individuals have pulled together to plan a new search in the hope of finally solving Lake Champlain’s greatest aviation mystery.  These experts are bringing new search theories, techniques and technology to the current effort which combines several public and private organizations.

Further press releases will be provided as we approach the time of the search and Subject Matter Experts will be made available at times that will not compromise the mission.

In the words of New York State Police Captain John Tibbitts, “The goal is to locate and recover the remains to finally bring closure to these families.”

Vermont State Police Lieutenant James Whitcomb states, “The Vermont State Police and New York State Police SCUBA Teams regularly train together.  We are looking forward to partnering with NYSP and others in this search to resolve this tragic incident.”

Photo: George Nikita, the pilot of the jet that crashed into Lake Champlain in 1971.

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