Big Island tour plane disappears
Coast Guard searches for missing tour plane
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A single-engine airplane with three people aboard disappeared yesterday over or near the Big Island.
The Cessna 172, owned and operated by Island Hoppers, took off from Kona and was last seen flying over Kilauea Volcano about 12:45 p.m., according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol and Big Isle Fire Department were involved in the search.
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HILO » A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 plane continued searching through the night and into this morning
for a missing single-engine tour plane that disappeared yesterday afternoon somewhere over or near the Big Island with a pilot and two passengers from Japan on board.
The Cessna 172 took off from Kona Airport Tuesday morning for a 3 hour tour.
Five aircraft from the Coast Guard, Hawaii County, and Civil Air Patrol were searching along the southern shores and inland, county Civil Defense director Quince Mento said.
The Cessna 172M, owned and operated by Island Hoppers, was last seen flying over Kilauea Volcano about 12:45 p.m., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokes-man Ian Gregor in Los Angeles.
The plane was sighted by another Island Hoppers pilot in the Kalapana lava flow area, Hawaii County Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said.
The C-130 was primarily listening for transponder signals above land and off the South Kona coast.
During the night the Coast Guard plane picked up "scattered" emergency signals, but they were on a frequency not used by the missing plane, and in an area on the east face of Mauna Kea where the plane was not expected to be, Mento said. Checks of that area are being made anyway, he said.
The Cessna left Keahole/Kona Airport at 10:15 a.m. yesterday for an around-the-island tour of the Big Island, officials said.
It was the second incident involving a tour plane from Island Hoppers, based in Kailua-Kona, in two months. On April 16, a pilot on an air tour of the Big Island made an emergency landing on Highway 130 after the single-prop aircraft, an Australian-made Gippsland GA8 Airvan, developed engine trouble near the lava flows into the sea south of Hilo. No one was injured.
In 2004, an Island Hoppers tour plane crashed in a lava field near Milolii. The pilot and her two passengers from Ohio were badly burned.
At an incident command post at county Civil Defense headquarters, officials would say only that a pilot and two passengers were aboard the missing plane. George Applegate of the Big Island Visitors Bureau said he has been contacted by Japanese representatives.
Oliveira said the plane was to circle the island along the coastline on a route that took it to the northern tip of the island at North Kohala, then down the coast to Hilo, on to the lava flow area in Puna, then to South Point and back to Keahole. The flight was scheduled to last 2 1/2 hours.
When the plane failed to return on time, the company reported it missing, Gregor said.
The FAA was trying to review the radar track yesterday to see whether anything could be spotted, but there was no good radar coverage in Kilauea, Gregor said. The Cessna was on a visual flight and had no contact with air traffic controllers.
The Cessna is a fixed-wing single-engine plane manufactured in 1974, according to FAA online records. The Cessna was issued certification on Oct. 30, 2007.
Oliveira said weather does not appear to be a factor.