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Fri, Mar 09, 2007

Search Crews Scale Back Search For Missing RV-6 Pilot

Plane Disappeared Near Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Aero-News has learned search crews on the ground and in the air have scaled back their search for a missing pilot, whose RV-6 disappeared from radar February 28 in the vicinity of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas.

The National Park Service posted notice Wednesday it was halting its ground search in the area. Park staff and Texas Highway Patrol officers swept the ground for some sign of the fire-engine-red RV-6 piloted by Jim Willess, while Civil Air Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety aircraft flew overhead.

On Thursday, as many as 21 Civil Air Patrol aircraft from Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico were still reportedly flying grid patterns over the area... but many of those aircraft had departed the search coordination base at Carlsbad (NM) Municipal Airport by Friday afternoon, leaving independent crews to continue the search.

Tracking data obtained by ANN shows the plane's last Mode C return occurred at approximately 8000 feet MSL, on the west end of the Broke Off Mountains west of the park. The plane (shown below, registration N320TX) would have been approximately 2,000 feet above ground level at that point.

As Aero-News reported, Jim Willess departed California February 28, on a cross-country ferry flight to Virginia. No contact has been made with the pilot since. Willess is a former airline captain, with some 25,000 hours flight time logged in a multitude of aircraft.



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