Small plane from Wichita disappears in Arkansas : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Last modified at 11:45 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2001

Small plane from Wichita disappears in Arkansas

The Associated Press

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. -- Authorities shifted their search for a missing plane late Monday afternoon after learning they had inaccurate information from the Federal Aviation Administration, said a Civil Air Patrol spokesman.

Incident Commander Byron McLaird said the initial coordinates received from the FAA's flight control center in Memphis, Tenn., which was tracking the plane Saturday, were incorrect and sent the search miles off course.

McLaird said searchers now suspected the plane went down over the Ozark National Forest near the town of Lurton and Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, about 45 miles north of where crews were searching for the past day and a half.

The single engine plane disappeared Saturday. Besides the pilot, one passenger was on board. Their names weren't released.

The initial search began at sunrise Sunday with five aircraft from the Arkansas wing of the Civil Air Patrol searching from Russellville to West Helena, McLaird said.

The plane left Wichita on Saturday for Lakeland, Fla., he said. The plane was supposed to stop in Tupelo, Miss., for refueling, but never did.

McLaird said the FAA control center at Memphis received word from the pilot after noon Saturday that he would have to drop below 3,500 feet because of bad weather and low visibility. The plane was thought to be around Russellville at the time. The control center never heard from the pilot again.

McLaird said the new information showed that the plane never made it as far south as Russellville.

"I'm still very optimistic that they may have survived this. If it went down hard, we'll see pieces. And fortunately, we have not had any severe weather on the ground," McLaird said. "Usually, if they survive the crash, it's the elements that'll get 'em. So if they survived the landing, more than likely they're still alive."

A command center was set up at the Conway airport and Civil Air Patrol planes were back in the air Monday afternoon en route to the new suspected crash area.

-- Doris (, April 11, 2001

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