10/3/2011–MORGANTOWN, WV–A State Police helicopter and dozens of ground searchers combed the remote, rugged mountains of Hardy County on Monday for three people on board a small plane that went missing on its way back to Johnstown, Pa.
Bad weather, however, limited their search to the ground. The head of the West Virginia Civil Air Patrol said conditions weren't good enough for fixed-wing aircraft, and crews hoped to get airborne Tuesday.
The pilot of the missing Piper PA32 Saratoga wanted to go to Danville, Va., Sunday night, Federal Aviation Administration officials said, but air traffic controllers lost contact just before 9 p.m.
FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said the plane is registered to a corporation, Wings R Us Inc. of Leechburg, Pa., but directory assistance had no listing for a company by that name.
Charles Armitage told the Valley News Dispatch that one of the people on board was his son, 52-year-old Chas Armitage Jr., the president of Uncle Charley's Sausage in Parks Township, Pa. He identified the pilot as 52-year-old Michael Fiori Garrone of Allegheny Township and told the newspaper the third person was his son's girlfriend. He didn't provide her name.
Col. Rodney Moore of the Civil Air Patrol said the plane was in radio and radar contact until it was about 12 miles south of the Grant County Airport in Petersburg.
"At that point, radar contact was lost," he said.
Five ground teams from West Virginia helped with the search efforts Monday, and they were likely to halt at dusk. Moore said more teams were expected overnight from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.
He said the air patrol would coordinate with state, county and local officials to cover as much area as possible, and the search area would likely encompass several thousand acres.
Responders in Hardy County searched Sunday night and all day Monday, said Tammy Gilhuys, deputy director of emergency management. They'd found nothing as of late Monday afternoon, she said.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for nearly 70 years. It is a major partner of Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. For more information on Civil Air Patrol, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com.
More than 1,500 members of CAP serve in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 42 search and rescue missions and were credited with 31 finds. For more information, visit www.mdcap.org.
Editor's Note: Article reprinted from Centre Daily Online, http://www.centredaily.com/2011/10/03/2936609/small-plane-missing-along-va-wva.html