Business exec was pilot of plane that vanished

The chief executive of a beverage distribution company was piloting a plane

CLEVELAND — The chief executive of a beverage distribution company was piloting a plane carrying his wife, two sons and two other people when it quickly lost altitude after takeoff from Cleveland’s lakeshore airport and vanished from radar, according to his family and a flight-tracking service Friday.

The parents of Superior Beverage Company executive John T. Fleming confirmed he was piloting the Columbus-bound plane when it disappeared late Thursday about two miles over Lake Erie.

Fleming’s father said the other five people on the plane were Fleming’s wife, two teenage sons, a neighbour and the neighbour’s daughter. John W. Fleming also described his son as “an experienced pilot.”

Crews combing Lake Erie for the plane on Friday remained hopeful that the occupants could be found alive, and were in search-and-rescue mode, not recovery mode, as they plied waters about 50 feet deep, said Capt. Michael Mullen, the chief of response for the Ninth Coast Guard District.

Tracking service FlightAware logged only three location pings for the plane after takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport, and the last one indicated rapid altitude loss. Authorities have said there were no distress signals from the pilot.

The aircraft took off westward from Burke, then turned north across the lake, according to the tracking service flightradar24.com. The departure procedure at Burke could take an aircraft north over the lake before turning south toward a destination, Mullen said.

The plane, which had made the roughly half-hour trip from Columbus earlier in the day, is registered to a limited liability company under the same Columbus address as Superior Beverage. Messages seeking comment were left Friday for a Superior Beverage representative.

Authorities have detected “faint hints” but no strong pulse from an emergency locating transmitter, a beacon that could help find the plane, Mullen said. Searchers have found no sign of debris.

“We’re very hopeful. We will be very hopeful up until the point that we have to turn the search off and we switch over to assisting with recovery,” Mullen said at news conference Friday.

But when asked about the possibility of the two-engine jet landing safely on Lake Erie, Mullen said, “Aircraft are not designed to float, especially in 12-foot seas.”

The search overnight was made difficult by snow squalls, high seas and darkness, Mullen said.

Just Posted

Man accused of manslaughter in fatal collision testifies he was cut off

A Delburne man accused of causing a fatal collision said he was… Continue reading

Class size targets hard to reach in Red Deer

Red Deer Public Schools recently updated its average class size

Lotteries look to younger customers to increase sales

Promoting online and interactive games

Red Deer man helps light up the holidays for others

Jim Elliott’s in his 15th year of mapping the city’s most magical, lit-up homes

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

Most Read