25 Mar 2014

Plane search to resume in morning

10:24 pm on 25 March 2014

The search for a one-man plane and its pilot missing since taking off from an Auckland airfield will resume at first light on Wednesday.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre said the home-built aerobatic bi-plane disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Ardmore airfield at about 11.30am on Tuesday.

It was carrying only the 53-year-old male pilot, whose partner raised the alarm after becoming concerned for his safety.

The centre's mission controller, Neville Blakemore, said no distress beacon had been activated.

The centre had received several reports from the public of a plane flying at low level, and the centre was analysing those reports to establish where to look.

Mr Blakemore said searching for the distinctive blue-and-white plane, with twin wings and an open cockpit, would resume at first light on Wednesday.

The plan was heading north-east towards the Hauraki Gulf when it took off and would have run out of fuel at about 2pm if it was still in the air.

Mr Blakemore said it had not landed at any of the airfields in the region.

Centre spokesperson Steve Rendall said the pilot was experienced and, while his exact route was not known, he was expected to head back to Ardmore.

"It's an aircraft that can land in a short distance and the pilot is, we're told, an experienced and skillful pilot," Mr Rendall said.

"We understand his cellphone was left in his car, so that wouldn't have been an option for him."

A Westpac Trust helicopter, along with an Airforce Orion, had joined the search for the plane, he said.