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Search continues for missing Maryland pilot

April 30, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

ST. THOMAS, PA.

More than 300 Civil Air Patrol members searched ridges and a mountainous area west of Mercersburg, Pa., on Saturday, but didn't find a plane and pilot missing since Tuesday, Major Joe Bateman said.

Twenty-three aircraft and some state police helicopters helped in the search, covering roughly 1,500 square miles, he said.

Also, Verizon confirmed that a cellphone belonging to the pilot was believed to be in the St. Thomas area.

CAP spokesman Capt. Steven Solomon said aircrews flew in areas where the pilot, David K. Weiss, 72, of Bethesda, Md., is thought to have been practicing his flying skills.

Other aircrews searched areas near the primary area. Ground teams searched the area surrounding a cellphone tower in St. Thomas, Solomon said.

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One CAP aircraft flew at a higher altitude in order to provide better radio communication between the ground teams and the mission base at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

A Maryland State Police helicopter flew in support of the search-and-rescue mission because of its ability to fly in closer for a better look if the aircrews spot something, Solomon said.

The search, which has been going on since Tuesday, is being conducted with aircrews and ground teams from CAP crews from Maryland, the National Capitol region and the Pennsylvania and West Virginia Wings, with additional support expected from Delaware and North Carolina.

Solomon said Friday there were 49 air sorties flown for a total of 88.8 hours, with 198 CAP members in aircrew and ground teams.

The Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross and Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. volunteers have helped with meals and other needs.

Weiss' family is asking for help from the public.

"At this time, we ask that anyone with information that can help us find our husband, father and friend, please contact the CAP as soon as possible at 301-791-5342," the family said in a statement Friday.

Weiss took off Tuesday shortly after noon from Gaithersburg (Md.) Airport, and was due back at 2:30 p.m. He was flying a blue and white Cessna 172 operated by the Congressional Flying Club. The last contact with the pilot was when the aircraft was leaving the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone at 12:17 p.m.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story

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