Small plane out of Falcon Field hours overdue; search under way

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A Pipe PA28 similar to this one took off from Falcon Field in Mesa Thursday afternoon, but never arrived at its destination. By Catherine Holland A Pipe PA28 similar to this one took off from Falcon Field in Mesa Thursday afternoon, but never arrived at its destination. By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. -- A single-engine Piper with three people aboard has not been seen since taking off from Falcon Field Thursday afternoon.

The Piper PA28, similar to the one pictured above, departed Mesa at 2:20 p.m. It was headed for Winslow with a planned diversion to Payson. It was supposed to land at 4:20 p.m., but it never arrived.

The little fixed-wing plane has the tail number N4188E and is registered to CAE Global Academy Phoenix Inc., formerly Sabena Airline Training Center. The flight school reported the plane overdue when it failed to land according to its flight plan.

According to radar tracking of the Piper's transponder, the plane's last known location was northwest of Payson.

Bruce Haffner reported from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper that the Civil Air Patrol had four aircraft searching for the little Piper. They took off at 4 a.m. Friday, nearly 12 hours after the plane was supposed to land.

"They're up there in high winds right now," Haffner said. "A lot of mountainous areas, canyons -- a really hard area to fly when there are high winds. So, they've got their hands full today up there."

According to the CAE Global Academy Phoenix website, the company has more than 50 years of experience in training pilots and operates a fleet of nearly 50 planes. The Phoenix flight school is one of 12 CAE runs throughout the country.

A popular plane with private owners and flying clubs, there are several variations of the Piper PA28, which was first introduced by Piper Aircraft  in 1960. Records list 1999 as the manufacture date for this particular plane. Current models of the Piper PA28 include the Arrow, the Archer TX and Archer LX.

According to the Piper Aircraft Owner's Handbook, the Piper PA28 can accommodate one pilot and three passengers. It has a range of 867 kilometers (538.7 miles). The flight distance from Falcon Field to Payson Airport is about 95.5 km (59.3 miles). The flight distance from Payson to Winslow is 102.1 km (63.4 miles).