Search continues for missing plane in Alabama, Georgia

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Ground teams from 4 CAP wings involved in effort

Civil Air Patrol’s search for a vintage olive drab military observation aircraft continued this weekend, despite weather delays on Saturday morning.

By midday, one Alabama Wing aircrew was ready to launch from Abbeville Airport, now the command post for the search. Two other crews were on standby in Eufaula and Pell City. The flights were delayed because of a low cloud ceiling in southeast Alabama.

Meanwhile, ground teams from four CAP wings – Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi – were available for the search on Saturday near the Chattahoochee River. Three of the ground teams were deployed to the east side of the river in Clay County, Ga., while the fourth team was on standby.

“We've had outstanding support,” said Maj. David Hester, CAP’s incident commander, who said numerous other agencies and first responders, including the Henry and Escambia County sheriff’s departments, are also participating under the oversight of the Henry County EMA.

The FEMA regional search and rescue team and volunteers from the American Red Cross are on site as well.

The 1942 Piper J3C-65, with two men aboard, was reported missing about 2 p.m. Tuesday after failing to return to Headland, Ala., after a leisure flight to Lake Eufaula. The search is focused on a 40-square-mile area on the eastern side of Henry County – a search grid identified earlier this week through CAP’s forensics of the occupants’ cell phones.

“A lot of work has been done in the lake and the river below the lake, but so far, all the leads have come back negative," Hester said.

Radar records have not provided any definitive clues about the Piper Cub, and while an emergency locator transmitter was on board, no signal has been received.

Since the search began Tuesday evening, the Alabama Wing has made 53 flights and the combined Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi wings have conducted 28 ground sorties. In addition to the ground team efforts, the wings have also conducted door-to-door follow-ups of leads provided by the public. To date, 50 CAP members have contributed.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. Performing missions for America for over 70 years, CAP will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in the coming months in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com, http://www.capvolunteernow.com and http://www.capgoldmedal.com for more information.

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Steve Cox

Julie DeBardelaben
Civil Air Patrol
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