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9 Still Missing With Lost Plane

October 10, 1997

MONTROSE, Colo. (AP) _ Searchers finished a second day scouring a rugged forest without finding a chartered plane that vanished with eight federal workers and a pilot aboard.

The eight passengers _ employees of the federal Bureau of Reclamation _ chartered a plane from Scenic Airlines to go to a meeting near Page, Ariz., 200 miles away. They vanished Wednesday morning.

About 30 planes and more than two dozen people on the ground focused Thursday on the plateau area 23 miles south of Montrose. Radar indicated the single-engine Cessna may have gone down there in clear weather shortly after takeoff. The search was scheduled to resume shortly after daybreak today.

``The longer it goes, the harder it is,″ said Mike Smith, a pilot for the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees federal dams and other water projects.

``Only after we find the airplane would I give up hope that those people are still alive,″ said Marjorie Cheney of the Civil Air Patrol.

Cheney said she has flown the same flight path, a route she described as tricky because pilots must gain elevation quickly as they track up the Uncompahgre Plateau.

Airport director Richard Crosman said planes take off from Montrose at 5,750 feet and fly over ground that rises to 10,200 feet at the plateau’s highest point. Pilots often have trouble gaining enough altitude, he said.

The cold temperatures on Wednesday morning may have been a factor, he added. Aircraft landing early reported icing on their wings.

Crosman said the Federal Aviation Administration tracked an airplane on radar that left Montrose Wednesday morning and flew 18.8 miles to 11,400 feet before dropping 3,000 feet a minute.

Air Force Capt. Leslie Pratt said no emergency locator transmission has been received. But she said the transmitter may have been damaged or the plane may be in an area, such as a canyon or gorge, that would block the signal.

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