Small plane missing off Cape Breton, two Calgary men on board

A small plane that disappeared off Nova Scotia’s northern coast late Thursday had been purchased by an Alberta man days ago and picked up just hours before it suddenly veered off course.

HALIFAX — A small plane that disappeared off Nova Scotia’s northern coast late Thursday had been purchased by an Alberta man days ago and picked up just hours before it suddenly veered off course.

An official with Stantec, an Edmonton-based engineering and design firm, confirmed that the man bought the Cessna 414 Alpha from the company within the last week and took possession of it Thursday. Heena Chavda said the man, who has not been identified, picked up the eight-seater plane at the Buttonville Airport outside Toronto sometime before its early evening departure.

Lt. Edward Stansfield of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax said the two men on board — the pilot and a passenger — are from Calgary. He said one man is in his mid-40s and the other in his mid-50s.

Aircraft and ships continued to scour the waters north of Sydney for any sign of the Cessna that dropped off radar screens around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Stansfield said the twin-engine plane was on a direct flight from Buttonville to Sydney when it abruptly lost contact with air traffic control and swerved northward.

It was due in at around midnight, but hit bad weather and disappeared about 14 kilometres off the coast. He said there was no distress signal or indication of trouble.

“It’s certainly an odd situation,” he said. “They were coming in for their approach and were in communication with air traffic control, and then lost communication and veered off sharply.”

Stansfield said they were descending rapidly before they went off the radar on a night marked by thick fog and heavy rains.

Planes and ships were combing an area of about 20 by 25 nautical miles, and doing aerial shore sweeps to look for any signs of survivors or debris.

Search conditions were almost ideal Friday, with clear skies and moderately choppy seas. But officials had found no trace of the plane.

“There has been nothing as of yet — no confirmed indications of the aircraft, no debris or oil or any of the telltale signs that we look for,” he said.

A Cormorant helicopter and other aircraft from Greenwood, N.S., were searching the area, along with a coast guard auxiliary vessel.