Small plane missing near Alexandria

Gareth Wilson

A LIGHT aircraft that took off from Port Alfred just before noon yesterday is missing and presumed to have crashed somewhere between Alexandria and Port Elizabeth.

The single-seater plane was one of three flying to Mossel Bay when they encountered heavy mist and fog. A father, son and family friend – whose identities were still unknown last night – were flying individually in the planes. The missing plane was last seen flying between Kenton-on-Sea and Colchester.

Farmers in the area have been alerted.

The alarm was raised after the two other planes landed safely at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

A full-scale search was launched at 6.30pm but called off three hours later due to poor visibility. It was due to resume at first light today.

The police K9 unit was on standby to help with the search, and the Environmental Affairs Department and SanParks were called in to assist.

The details were still sketchy last night.

Police, however, confirmed that the missing aircraft was one of three that had been travelling to Mossel Bay. The planes had left Port Alfred at about 11.20am.

Police spokesman Captain Mali Govender said the missing aircraft was last seen in the air somewhere between Kenton-on-Sea and Colchester.

“According to the information we received, while flying near the Alexandria area they experienced thick fog and mist. The group then split in different directions.

“One aircraft flew over the sea and the other climbed to a higher altitude,” she said.

“We are still trying to ascertain in which direction the third aircraft went. Our teams are trying to map the possible routes the aircraft could have taken.

“Police patrol vehicles will continue the search through the night, but the full-scale search-and-rescue operation will resume at first light.”

Disaster management officials coordinated the search parties after being alerted to the missing aircraft by the air traffic control office.

“There was no flight plan filed so we cannot say what path they were following,” one official said. “The area is massive and the plane could be anywhere.”

Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company spokesman Percy Morokane said the Port Elizabeth air traffic control had activated the search after the other two pilots reported that communication had been lost with the third plane.

“We are treating the aircraft as missing at this stage. We do not know if it has gone down.”

SA Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Phindiwe Gwebu could not be reached for comment.

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