UPDATE

Search on for small plane from Mesa's Falcon Field

Posted: Updated:
A Piper PA28 similar to this plane was reported missing after taking off from Mesa's Falcon Field on Thursday afternoon. A Piper PA28 similar to this plane was reported missing after taking off from Mesa's Falcon Field on Thursday afternoon.
MESA, AZ (CBS5) -

The Civil Air Patrol has five aircraft searching for a missing flight school plane with three people on board that took off from Mesa's Falcon Field on Thursday afternoon.

CAP Capt. Bob Ditch said the aircraft took off about 4 a.m. Friday in search of a single-engine Piper aircraft.

Nathalie Bourque of CAE Global Academy at Falcon Field confirmed a student aircraft that was scheduled to fly to Payson and back to Mesa was missing. She confirmed that two students and instructor were on board.

She did not say where the three were from, but said the pilot was a very experienced instructor.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper PA28 left about 2:20 p.m. with a planned stop in Payson.

Bourque said the flight school reported the plane overdue when it didn't return to Mesa as planned at 4:20 p.m.

Ditch said the search was focusing in a remote and rugged area west of Payson, where the plane was last tracked on radar and where cell phone records place the passenger's phones. Ditch said no emergency locator beacon had been detected, but it appeared the plane never made it to Payson.

"It's heavily mountainous very, very austere desert mountain region (with) a lot of canyons, a lot of peaks," Ditch said. "A lot of it's a very, very difficult area to navigate through, so we have to get relatively high.

"It's not something like a helicopter can proceed through," Ditch said. "We're fixed-wing aircraft, so it's tough going."

No other information was immediately available.

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News as this story develops.

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