Dear friends and family,
Although many details of this fateful day have only become clear to me during the last year and half of research into the incident, the story is something I have been aware of since childhood. It was my uncle on my mother's side, LCDR James Peter Kuhn, who was co-pilot on this flight.
It is my hope that we can bring some closure to this nearly 50-year-old mystery, and peace to all the families involved. To that end, I have assembled a small team whose objective is to locate Navy Plane BUNO 17254, document anything we find, and prompt the repatriation of those 16 souls who are still lost to us.
After a lengthy investigation into the incident, review of all the pertinent materials which have been available to us, and a reconstruction of the events of August 4th, 1969, we have set our sights on a particular area of search within the Rio Cortaderal river valley, and along a route which James Kuhn was known to have flown during previous flights through the Andes. For those of you familiar with the Navy search, this area falls within the northern portion of Zone 3.
Within the range of this alternate flight path, we have identified a visual anomaly in the aerial photos which does not match the local terrain but seems to suggest that BUNO 17254, and our loved ones, could possibly be at rest there. Without help from the Navy, or spending tens of thousands of dollars to access more detailed aerial imagery of the area, the most expedient way to determine the truth is to travel to the site ourselves.
I want to ask for your forbearance regarding details, as I am not going to include any photos or more specific location information in this particular communication, as I am wary of adventurists and thrill seekers who may attempt to reach the location before we are able to arrive there. Once we are heading into the area in question, I will communicate our intended destination. I hope you all understand.
We are still determining the exact departure time but will be flying into Santiago, Chile sometime between February 11th - 18th, depending on our readiness with the gear we still have yet to acquire, the needs of our team, and the variability of last-minute air travel.
I had hoped to make this journey without alerting the families or getting anyone's hopes up, as I know first hand what a difficult thing it must be to go year after year with just hints and possibilities. Being witness to my own family's grief all of these years is certainly one motivation for determining to make this attempt. My plan these past 10 months has been to entirely self-fund this journey, locate the plane, and only then reveal to the families the location, and the evidence we'd gathered. However word travels fast in this age, and in reality, we could use the support. It's just hard to ask.
Our team will consist of 3 or 4 people, depending on funding, and timing.
My name is Brandon Lovejoy, nephew of LCDR James Kuhn. I will be leading the expedition, providing communication, documenting the journey as best I can, and most importantly ensuring that everyone on the team returns safely.
Andrew Gustin has been and continues to head up research and analysis. Andrew is a geologist by training, and a cartographer and GIS analyst by occupation. Andrew is a seasoned hiker, and an expert on the particular type of glacial terrain we will be trekking through.
Madeline Boler, an expert hiker and explorer, will be handling expeditionary team resources, eg. camp and food logistics, and brings the strongest Spanish language skills to facilitate communication with our Chilean contacts in the area.
Depending on the funding we receive, and the timing, we may be able to bring an additional person to help with video documentation, and scouting the area at altitude by drone.
We are aiming to raise $8,000 USD to help us do this right, but we are committed to heading there regardless with only the gear we presently have, and our own willingness to take this risk alone. In other words, we will work with whatever we have.
Any contribution you make will be applied towards keeping the team safe, expanding our search capacity, providing adequate documentation, and defraying expenses incurred by the team members in undertaking this journey, such as food, gear, and transportation.
I will continue making updates until such time as we depart into areas without connectivity. We anticipate being beyond the reach of communication for about 7 days. We will have on hand an emergency position indicating radio beacon, which would only be activated in case of emergency.
In the event that the location we have in mind produces nothing, we have a few other high-value sites which we will be able to scout, and we will have learned more about where the plane is not... but my sincere wish is that we may find the aircraft, and put this to rest.
When we emerge from the mountains, we will share our findings with everyone.
I am here to answer any questions you may have and will be providing a more detailed itinerary when we are ready to set out.
Below you will find the first two parts of an article I wrote, summarizing the details of the incident so far. I hope to conclude this series with the location of BUNO 17254.