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Plane wreckage found on Moss Beach bluff

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Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:57 am

UPDATED: 2:45 p.m. Searchers found the wreckage of a missing airplane along the craggy coast of Moss Beach Tuesday morning, more than 24 hours after the light aircraft took off from Half Moon Bay Airport. The pilot, 75-year-old Andrew Hayden of Florida, had not been recovered as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hayden took off in a light, single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft at about 5:50 a.m. Monday. He was due to refuel in Apple Valley before continuing on to Marana Regional Airport near Tucson, Ariz. His wife reported him missing to the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at about 6 p.m. Monday.

The Coast Guard San Francisco Sector launched a search by sea and air and searchers returned to the area Tuesday morning.

At about 11:35 a.m. Tuesday a San Mateo County Parks ranger discovered wreckage on the bluffs in the vicinity of Bernal Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. From the position of the wreckage, it appears the plane crashed into the side of the bluffs, which are within a mile of the airport.

The aircraft was burned beyond recognition. Hayden’s aircraft tail number was N72AH, but the numbers were no longer evident in the debris found Tuesday morning. It was hard to determine the color of the airplane, but there appeared to be bits of orange and white metal amid what was otherwise a twisted frame.

By Tuesday afternoon, authorities had confirmed the debris was once Hayden’s Aeropro airplane.

An Air Force spokesman confirmed that the last known location of Hayden’s plane was just off the Half Moon Bay coast. Pilots of such small aircraft may file a flight plan, though they are not required to, according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Operators at the Marana airport report that Hayden left no such plan.

At press time, it was not clear whether Hayden had been found. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Detective Rebecca Rosenblatt said recovery efforts were temporarily suspended as crews on the scene awaited a cliff rescue team. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were en route Tuesday afternoon and Sheriff’s officials said they would take over the scene once they arrived.

Reports from the scene indicate that Hayden and his wife were in the Bay Area visiting their daughter who is a local resident.

The investigation into the crash is ongoing. Anyone with information on Hayden or the plane should contact the Coast Guard command center at (415) 399-3547.

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