Search area narrowed for plane that vanished while coming in for landing at RDU, officials say

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The search area has narrowed for a plane that vanished while preparing for a landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Sunday night, airport officials said on Monday.

Authorities said that a distress signal was sent and that a plane disappeared from radar near RDU Sunday night. A search for the aircraft got underway shortly after.

The incident involved a single-engine plane and closed the airport for nearly an hour, according to Raleigh police and RDU officials.

The incident began around 7:25 p.m. when a small plane approaching the airport from the east was lost on radar near Umstead Park, according to a news release from RDU.

Raleigh police said a distress signal was sent.

CBS 17 journalists on scene Sunday night saw search and rescue crews — including ambulances — along Ebenezer Church Road, which is a boundary for Umstead State Park.

The RDU statement, released at 8:31 p.m., said that the airport had since reopened.

Crystal Feldman, RDU spokeswoman, said that the airport had to be closed because airport fire units initially responded to the missing plane. Once the fire units returned, the airport reopened, which officials said was only 20 minutes later.

RDU officials said that the search was suspended around 2 a.m. Monday and then resumed at daylight.

“Search and rescue efforts are underway and will continue to be RDU’s top priority,” Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, said in a news release Sunday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement to CBS 17 on Monday that they “issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) for a Piper PA-32 aircraft after air traffic controllers lost contact with the flight as it was approaching Runway 32 at Raleigh Durham International Airport at 7:40 p.m., [Sunday].”

The statement went on to explain that “An ALNOT advises airports and public safety agencies about the missing aircraft and triggers a search.”

A dozen local and state partners are in the area searching for the plane on the ground and from the air, RDU officials said. A North Carolina State Highway Patrol helicopter “is searching for a heat signature from the ground, a signal typical of an aircraft crash landing,” the release said.

“Umstead State Park is 5,200 acres of dense forest, with few roads and little to no light,” said Landguth. “Recovery efforts are extremely challenging in remote areas and it could take a long time to find this plane.”

Although more than a dozen emergency crews are assisting in the search, the location of the plane “will determine which agency will secure the site. Then, the National Transportation Safety Board will lead an investigation,” according to RDU.

People are being asked to avoid the area around Umstead State Park while authorities conduct search and rescue operations.

The park is officially closed to the public on Monday, according to RDU and park officials.

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