On Oct. 26, a private airplane took off from the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and has gone missing, possibly due to weather conditions.5
The National Transportation Safety Board predicts the plane will be found to have likely crashed into the Mississippi Sound, killing the three passengers on board.
The aircraft, a Lancair Super ES, is sold in a kit for self-assembly. Though it is possible a mechanical malfunction caused the crash, pilot Ronald Gregory had plenty of experience in the air. The NTSB reported Gregory had recorded 4,441 hours of airtime — it only takes 40 hours to get a pilot’s license.
Another probable cause of the crash could be ascribed to the weather conditions on that day—light rain, scattered clouds and fairly strong wind gusts, according to the NTSB. The same kind of weather has prevented search teams from making any headway in recovering the aircraft.
Vernon Asper, a professor of marine science at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus, was initially part of the search effort. Flying his homemade plane over the sound, he looked for signs of the craft, but poor weather prevented any leads from showing up.
“We went out at a time when the wind was blowing really hard,” Asper said. “It was not ideal weather. I was flying above the water to see if I could make out anything under the water. Sometimes waves will bend around debris on the ocean floor.”
Since the first recovery efforts, no teams can return to the search until the weather permits it. At the moment, Asper’s plane is undergoing some maintenance work, but as soon as possible he plans to contribute to the ongoing investigation.
“If they don’t find the plane soon, I would like to go back out,” Asper said.
The team looking for Gregory’s plane is Texas Echo Search, a Texas group that specialized in finding missing planes, cars and people. TES hope that with their advanced sonar equipment they can shorten the search to provide answers to the families of those missing.
Tim Miller, director of TES, responded to the authorities when asked for his group’s help.
“Family members called me,” Miller said. “We actually talked to the sheriff, and then talked to his investigator in charge, and they said, ‘We can certainly use y’all out here.’”
Texas Echo Search brought along two boats and all of their equipment. “Sonar work in the recovering of a couple airplanes and many cars and many people and stuff,” Miller said. “It felt as though our equipment knowledge could be an asset to the search efforts.”
No new information has been gathered since the report from Miller, but the Texas Echo Search group is committed to staying until they feel they have thoroughly searched the Jackson County area. Locals, authorities and investigators continue to contribute their time in resources to the recovery of the small plane and all aboard.
As of now, the pilot and the plane’s two passengers, Dexter Brewer and Gerald Miletello, are all presumed dead.