Search continues for overdue Ketchikan flyers

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) Searchers continue to scour the Canadian coastline for a missing blue-and-red striped Ercoupe plane with two Ketchikan residents on board.

Lt. Sonia Connock, a public affairs officer with the Canadian Air Force, said searchers were concentrating on islands and coastline near Prince Rupert, British Columbia in hopes of spotting the airplane carrying Bob and Shirley Straight.

''We'll continue the search until we exhaust every possible means of finding these people,'' she told the Ketchikan Daily News.

The wheeled Ercoupe plane, which has a distinctive twin-tail design, disappeared Sunday. The couple stopped to refuel at the Port Hardy airport on the way to Ketchikan after visiting family in Washington state.

The plane was last tracked on radar near Bella Bella, British Columbia, as rain, fog and low clouds closed in.

Friends and family describe the couple as fit, organized and remarkably nice. The two moved to Ketchikan about 10 years ago and live on a sailboat.

Bob Straight, 65, was piloting the plane. He was retired after working as a police officer in Denver, a supervisor at Boeing Corp. in Seattle and an underground uranium miner. He also worked at Ketchikan's shipyard and at the Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility at Back Island near Ketchikan.

A past commodore of the Ketchikan Yacht Club, he has had a pilot's license since 1954.

The couple acquired the Ercoupe plane about a year ago, friends said.

Shirley Straight, 57, is a legal secretary at Ziegler Law Firm in Ketchikan.

Connock of the Canadian Air Force said 47 military personnel were assisting with the search, with operations based at the Port Hardy airport. Searchers investigated several reports Thursday from people who thought they spotted or heard the plane.

''We haven't found anything, debris or oil slicks in the water,'' she said. ''A few of the sightings were of aircraft on the sides of hills and mountains, but none of those sightings turned up anything.''

There has been no signal from Ercoupe's emergency locator beacon, a likely sign that the plane has been damaged, Connock said.

Two planes with volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol's Southeast Composite Squadron in Juneau were involved in the search.

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