William James McAdams

McAdams, circa 2015; Airplane that McAdams was flying

  • Missing Since 05/08/2015
  • Missing From Palo Alto, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth 07/14/1990 (28)
  • Age 24 years old
  • Height and Weight 6'2, 155 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Brown hair, brown eyes. McAdams has a tattoo of an airplane on his shoulder. His nickname is Will.

Details of Disappearance

McAdams was last seen in Palo Alto, California during the early morning hours of May 8, 2015. He worked as a flight instructor at the Palo Alto Municipal Airport. At 1:00 a.m., he took a single-engine 2011 G1000 Cessna Skyhawk 172S without permission and flew away, and has never been heard from again.

The plane, which has the tail number N191TG, has a range of about 500 miles. A photo of it is posted with this case summary. It was picked up on radar at 2:45 a.m., approximately 70 miles off the coast of Watsonville, California, apparently flying southwest over the water at 134 miles per hour.

A few hours later, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) got a signal from the plane's emergency beacon, but the signal was so brief that the FAA was unable to track a location. It's possible the beacon was activated unintentionally.

McAdams was facing domestic violence charges in Florida at the time of his disappearance; he'd been arrested in Orange County on April 24 and charged with felony aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery.

The charges stemmed from an argument he got into with a woman at an Orlando hotel; when she tried to leave, he allegedly attacked her with a knife. He bonded out of jail on April 27. He planned to plead not guilty, and his arraignment was scheduled for June 2. McAdams's family stated the allegations against him were uncharacteristic of his behavior.

McAdams was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, spent his childhood in Florida and moved back to Wisconsin for high school. After graduation, he enrolled in a flight school in Florida.

He wrote technical manuals on aviation training, worked as a flight instructor in Florida, started an aviation supply company in Tampa Bay area, and then founded his own flight school, Fly High Bay Area, in California in 2012. The school operates out of the airport in Palo Alto, but the plane McAdams was flying was leased to Advantage Aviation, a flying club he also worked for.

The Coast Guard initiated a search for McAdams and the plane after he disappeared, but then called it off. They stated a thorough search would have to cover approximately 120,000 square miles and they were not equipped to do that.

Authorities aren't sure whether McAdams fled to escape prosecution, committed suicide, or disappeared for some other reason. He missing under strange circumstances and his case remains unsolved.

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 9, 2016; casefile added.