The search is continuing for a pilot missing in a light plane in southern or central Queensland, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says.
Pilot Rob Pavan flew out of Gympie in south-east Queensland on Saturday morning but did not make it to a small airstrip about 90 kilometres west of Gladstone in central Queensland.
|Pilot Rob Pavan beside a Jabiru plane at Monto in central Queensland (ABC News)|
The solo pilot is an experienced aviator who had just completed a trip around Australia.
He was flying a single engine Jabiru 250 and the trip should have taken about 90 minutes.
Friends said Mr Pavan was travelling to a 60th birthday party at a station near Biloela.
AMSA was alerted when Mr Pavan failed to arrive and a search began about 4:15pm on Saturday.
|A map shows Sunday’s search area for the missing aircraft north-west of Gympie. (AMSA)|
It said today’s search is still focused on an inland area north-west of Gympie and south-east of Monto, covering 6,200 square kilometres.
Five fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters will help in the search today.
The aircraft are from locations across south-east Queensland, and include two of AMSA’s dedicated search and rescue Dornier fixed-wing aircraft.
Authorities said Mr Pavan may have landed in a remote area where there was no radio communication.
AMSA spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher said the search was concentrated on an area identified from a text message Mr Pavan sent shortly after take-off.
“We’ve been able to work with the phone providers to try and narrow that search area and the search area has expanded today a little bit, just to track the side in case the plane was outside that general tracked area,” she said.
Fellow AMSA spokeswoman Lisa Martin said searchers had a large area to cover.
|Some of the rescue helicopters involved in the search for Rob Pavan refuel at Gympie Airport. (Facebook: Australian Maritime Safety Authority)|
“The search will be concentrated again in an area between Gympie and Monto and we will have a number of fixed wing aircraft as well as helicopters assisting in the search,” she said.
“It is very mountainous terrain so some of the areas we will have to pass over several times to make sure we’re doing a thorough search of that area.”
Ms Martin said conditions this morning were clear but weather might deteriorate.
“There are some rain showers and the weather, we’ll be monitoring over the next couple of hours,” she said.
Mr Pavan’s friend and fellow pilot, Col Edwards, said he had flown the same route many times.
He said poor weather might have forced Mr Pavan to take a different path.
“The route does traverse some fairly high country particularly as it goes north,” he said.
“In all likelihood he probably wouldn’t have taken the direct route, he would diverted to lower country to get under the cloud that was prevalent at the time.”
Mr Edwards said he first met Mr Pavan 15 years ago when they built a light aircraft together near Mackay.
“He could fly very well. He’s the sort of bloke that you could trust with your life in building your aeroplane and also flying with you,” he said.