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Missing airplane found, pilot dead

Aircraft left Cleveland Friday morning en route to NC

POSTED: July 20, 2009 12:03 a.m.

The wreckage of a missing plane containing the body of the pilot was located late Sunday afternoon in a rugged area of the mountains of North Carolina.

Pilot Bill Allison left Mountain Airpark in Cleveland around 9:30 a.m. Friday in a 1978 Cessna 182 RB bound for Murphy, N.C. Allison’s wife, Wanda, reported him missing to authorities when he failed to arrive at Andrews-Murphy Airport. Wanda Allison said her husband was an accomplished pilot who ran the North Carolina airport in the Nantahala Forest.

The discovery was confirmed by Capt. Don Penven of the North Carolina Civil Air Patrol.

“Fortunately, we found it; unfortunately it didn’t have a happy ending,” Penven said.

The Georgia Civil Air Patrol’s Maj. Paige Joyner said that his auxiliary notified Wanda Allison that her husband had been killed in the crash.

The crash site was found by friends of Allison’s who were flying in a local tour helicopter when the pilot spotted wreckage on a mountain ridge in Clay County, N.C., near the Georgia border. The crash site is “very close to what we estimated his flight path to be,” Penven said.

Penven said the helicopter pilot was able to spot the wreckage because the copter could fly lower, some 100 feet, than the aircraft that had been searching all weekend, which had to stay above 1,000 feet.

Investigation and recovery of the wreckage is “going to be very difficult,” Penven said. “It’s really rugged country. The ground team took about three to four hours to reach the wreckage. ... It’s really rough terrain.”

Once they reached the site, the Clay County Emergency Services team confirmed the wreckage was Allison’s Cessna. His body was found in the wreckage. Penven said the team was unable to determine what may have caused Allison’s plane to go down.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been notified about the crash site, and the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to be dispatched to the site today to begin an investigation, Penven said. An autopsy also will be completed, he said.

A total of six aircraft from the North Carolina Civil Air Patrol were involved in the search and more than 50 members participated in the mission, Penven said. CAP aircraft logged nearly 50 hours of flight time and were recalled from the search just before 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, conducts 90 percent of the inland search and rescue missions in the continental U.S.



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