GULF SHORES, AL: August 2 – The Federal Aviation Administration reports that a Piper PA-28 Cherokee took off from Gulf Shores’ Jack Edwards Airport at 7:05 a.m. Monday piloted by a man who was not authorized to fly the plane and – it is believed – the plane later crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Jack Edwards Airport Manager Russ Kilgore reports that the man who piloted the plane is a licensed pilot who was scheduled for a flight lesson but left without his instructor.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that after about 4 hours in the air the stolen plane suddenly fell 600 feet in 3 minutes falling off radar screens about 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.
In a press release the U.S. Coast Guard reports that after hours of searching a 2,500 square mile area -- using a Coast Guard cutter and a helicopter -- within proximity of where contact with the plane was lost they have found no evidence of a downed plane or a debris field indicating a crashed airplane.
Authorities say the pilot, who is believed to be the only person aboard the aircraft, never communicated with them or anyone from the plane since he took off.
The plane is registered to Jack Edwards Airport based Gulf Air Charter, Inc.