Local News

Family petitions for answers to plane's mystery disappearance

Posted May 18, 2012
Updated May 19, 2012

— Lt. Mike Tisik was the co-pilot of a transport plane, returning from Anchorage, Alaska, to Montana on a frigid night in January 1950 when the plane and 44 people on board simply disappeared. Sixty years later, Tisik's grandnephew, Paul Vilga, has launched a campaign for answers.

The U.S. Air Force searched for the C-54 Skymaster in Canada's Yukon territory where it is believed to have crashed but never found a trace.

"The initial search was called Operation Mike. Operation Mike was one of the largest searches in North American history," said Vilga, who lives in Rolesville. 

Rolesville man wants renewed search for downed plane Rolesville man wants renewed search for downed plane

Now he needs 25,000 virtual signatures to force the Obama administration to consider his request to re-open the search for his grandmother's beloved brother.

"There's nine million people that live in North Carolina. It feels like it would be easy to get the 25,000 signatures that we need," he said.

Stella Vilga will turn 80 years old on July 1, and Paul Vilga wants to deliver a renewed search as a birthday present. "My grandmother means everything to me. She's always been there for our family," he said.


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  • quaten May 18, 2012

    Keep looking. It's there somewhere, possibly in the lake.

  • quaten May 18, 2012

    ...Searchers found no signs of a crash or the plane until a few days later when faint radio signals were picked up by a USAF crew. Listening to the signal, the radio operator believed he heard the words "Watson Lake," a location on the Yukon-B. C. border. Search parties converged on the area around Watson Lake and a second location 80 km from Whitehorse where witnesses said they heard an explosion on Jan. 26, yet nothing was found.

  • quaten May 18, 2012


    ...The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were receiving numerous reports of witnesses seeing an aircraft in distress. The most credible came from forest ranger L. Requa, who was in the woods surrounding Minto about 250 km east of Snag. He told authorities he spotted a large plane flying at an estimated height of 6,000 feet. Seconds after the plane disappeared from sight, he heard a crash which shook the roof of his cabin. He later described it as sounding like a "dull thud." He then saw a faint billow of smoke in the distance.

  • jd21 May 18, 2012

    Airplanes vanish all the time over North America. I'm in Search & Rescue; you just don't hear about it in the news. There is no conspiracy. You just have to give the extremeness of true wilderness its due credit, & the often almost total destruction of aircraft on high-speed impact, which quickly gets buried in snow or overgrown and effectively disappears. I doubt any coverup. Alaska (& by extension the Great White North of the Yukon) has the highest rate of aircraft crashes in the US. Its just a hard place to fly (& worse 60 years ago).

  • jd21 May 18, 2012

    As a Special Operations Veteran, I wish I could support this idea, but I can't. Having actually participated in multiple Search & Rescue missions. In very adverse terrain situations (like the Yukon) at times locating downed aircraft is virtually impossible under the best conditions & despite massive efforts (witness the massive search for Steve Fossett in the West several years ago). Just like him, many times these sites are only found accidently by outdoorsmen/women. Many of the technologies cited before (even Google satellite imagery,etc.) were employed but ineffective. Attempting a search for an aircraft from over 60 years ago (which had one of the largest SAR efforts in history already) in an extreme wilderness area or flew at speed into a mountainside (virtually disintegrating everything or burying it deeply & essentially unrecoverable) in a foreign country is just not a justifiable expenditure of Taxpayer funds. I agree this is very sentimental, but needs to be a private effort.

  • dirtDoktor May 18, 2012

    Someone post a link to the petition.

  • mmtlash May 18, 2012

    airplanes don't just vanish over North America....I'm not conspiracy theorist by any means but I smell a cover up of some sort....

  • ladyblue May 18, 2012

    It is a quiet comfort to those who go in harms way to know their grateful nation will never tire in the effort to return their remains home.

    yes I am sure my aunt would love to have my cousin remains brought home from nam or even know what happened to him when he went MIA (only report she got) but when the government pulled out they left more than equipment behind and few looked back.Nor did our soldiers that did make it back even get the respect from the american people. if not for private individuals and some senators like McCain helping search for the MIA"S, i don't think the government would of cared. So i agree with the new techology out there they may can search for this soldier, but when finished, lets move on the the other MIA's out there and show them the same respect......

  • yelnatsthegreat May 18, 2012

    With minimal man power the search can continue. Satellites, UAVs, even google earth can be used. American servicemen and women deserve to be brought home. It is a quiet comfort to those who go in harms way to know their grateful nation will never tire in the effort to return their remains home.

  • UNCfuturealumi May 18, 2012

    You got my signature!