Important UPDATE

As most of you know Bob and Neiba Norton, along with five passengers, disappeared February 16, 2009, while on an emergency medical flight over the jungles of Venezuela. For the past two years, search efforts have taken family members, friends and search teams on an intense and challenging journey. At times the search effort has been focused, and things have moved forward steadily, and at others the apparent lack of direction and action have been extremely frustrating for many of us involved. However, through it all, the resolve and commitment of our U.S. Team and the Venezuelan Teams, has remained strong.

During the past 8 months, I’ve sent out a few basic updates to let everyone know that we have not given up on trying to find Bob and the others. Until now, we didn’t have enough pulled together to show everyone what we’ve been up to. Now, we will fill you in on what’s been going ….

We are designing and building an unmanned SEARCH DRONE to take to Venezuela, and use to scan the jungle areas where Bob may have gone down. Edan Cain has been developing flight and ground control software for such a drone, for the past couple of years, and has now joined efforts with us. We are also in discussion with a manufacturer of drones, that may be willing to build us a model with long range capability. The drone is being outfitted with cameras and sensors that are designed to help locate the plane under the jungle canopy,and can fly slow and low over the jungle and tirelessly fly map the jungle area, to locate points of interest. All this is done without the risks and expenses of manned aircraft. This drone, once fully developed, will also be useful for future searches as well. This is a very exciting project and we will now be posting updates on our website and the Facebook Discussion Board on a regular basis. We are also working with both the U.S. and Venezuelan agencies to get all approvals in place for this search effort.

In addition to the drone, over the past months we have had several experienced search and rescue personnel, (They won’t let me call them experts!) , join in to help us manage the search effort. John Dill, from Yosemite Search & Rescue (YOSAR), has been reviewing our data and search plan, and is coaching us on search strategy as well as investigation methods. His attention to detail has already helped us realize we had an error in some of the data we used for our flight simulations. With corrections in place, our flight simulations are now going to be more accurate. Now, when we complete the flight simulations, Digital Globe will take satellite images of the area, to see if there are any signs of the downed aircraft or dead foliage from possible fuel and oil spills.

John Dill introduced us to George Durkee, and associates who are currently working to build a computerized 3D earth model of all of our search data. They are using a powerful software platform called GeoSpatial Information Systems (GIS). This will help organize all the data in multiple layers on an earth map, and will be most useful as we review all that has been done and determine next steps.

We are also privileged to be able to present the Norton search effort in two different venues. The first opportunity is coming up in April, at the Shenandoah National Park with a team experienced in GIS technologies. The second opportunity, is at the annual National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) convention in Sparks, NV this June. We will certainly obtain valuable input and ideas when we present this search effort to this broad search and rescue community.

We continue to capture our activities on film as well, for independent film producer Tim de la Torre from California. Tim is producing a documentary called “Beyond the Runway” , about Bob Norton and this entire effort to find him and the others.

Literally, hundreds and hundreds of voluntary man-hours are being invested in this challenging search effort. If you are interested in being a part of this effort, we do need your help as well. We have expenses associated with the drone development that we currently, do not have sufficient funds to cover. We need to raise around $8,000 to be used to develop and test the drone. We are planning on setting up a non-profit organization; in the mean time, tax deductible donations can still be made through (It is important to mark donations “Bob Norton Search”). If anyone has frequent flyer miles that they would like to donate, that will greatly help since we do have travel associated with the drone development, testing, and deployment. If you would like to donate frequent flyer miles, please contact me directly at the following email: bobedwards {at} findingbobnorton(.)org or call me at 423.280.8217. Thank you. and may God continue to bless this effort and those who support it!

And so we press ahead . . . (in a big way!!)

Bob Edwards – U.S. Search Team Leader

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