Lufkin, TX -- Air operations will resume in the search for Space Shuttle Columbia debris, according to Texas Forest Service Chief of Fire Operations Mark Stanford. Seven helicopters will began searching East Texas, weather permitting, for the first time since a March 27 helicopter crash in the Angelina National Forest which killed two and injured three searchers.
"On Tuesday morning, crews with five helicopters at Angelina County Airport in Lufkin and two helicopter crews at Ennis were waiting for weather conditions to improve before continuing the air search. Gradually, five additional helicopters will be added to the Lufkin area and six additional helicopters will join the Ennis air operations," said Stanford.
During an average day, each helicopter is capable of searching approximately 900 acres. Each helicopter has a crew that includes a pilot, who has the single responsibility of flying the aircraft; an aircraft manager, who is responsible for communicating with the base and other aircraft in the area, and for providing search coordinates for the pilot using global positioning system information; a NASA spotter and an interagency spotter.
Through Thursday, March 27, approximately 1.3 million acres were searched and more than 900 items were recovered as a result of air search operations.
As the transition of the Columbia Shuttle operation begins to fully move to NASA toward the end of April, individuals are reminded that the Shuttle Material Reporting toll-free line will be maintained for the reporting of suspected debris. That number is 1-866-446-6603.