Page last updated at 21:48 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 22:48 UK

Missing plane search called off

A Sea King helicopter
The search was being co-ordinated by RAF Kinloss

A search-and-rescue operation for an aircraft that went missing on its way to Kent has been called off.

The missing civilian two-seater plane set off from Cambridge on Wednesday morning on the 100-mile trip to Lydd Airport, near Romney Marsh.

The aircraft was last heard from near the mouth of the River Medway at Sheerness at about 1100 BST.

A coastguard helicopter and an RAF Sea King helicopter from Wattisham Airfield, Suffolk, were scrambled.

The aircraft was said to be a VariEze, fixed wing, homebuilt aircraft.

The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at RAF Kinloss said on Wednesday evening that the area had been searched and the operation had been called off.

There has been no distress message from the aircraft. So we are in a waiting game
Dover Coastguard

Dover Coastguard said there had been no further sightings of the missing plane.

A spokesman said: "What happens next is up to the ARCC.

"The aircraft may have come down in a small field somewhere."

He also added it was possible the plane had landed at another airport and failed to register its landing, or travelled a further 20 miles across the Channel to France.

"Visibility has been excellent all day. No-one has said anything to suggest that anything might have come down.

"There has been no distress message from the aircraft. So we are in a waiting game," he said.

Air rescue teams had searched for signs of suspicious markings or any bonfires but there had been no signs of a crashed aircraft, he added.

'Aircraft overdue'

The search operation covered the Kent coast, the Isle of Grain and the Isle of Sheppey.

A "straight line" search was also carried out between Sheerness and Lydd Airport.

Earlier, coastguards said the light aircraft, which was bound from Cambridge to Lydd, was overdue.

They said the plane was last heard from through its GPS navigational equipment at midday, just north of Sheppey.

The ARCC at RAF Kinloss was co-ordinating the search and coastguards had assisted with their fixed winged aircraft from Manston.

A spokesman at RAF Kinloss said: "No members of the public have reported anything unusual and nobody has reported family members missing."

He added: "There could be an innocent explanation for this but at the moment we just don't know. We have run out of places to search."

Rescuers said it was unclear whether one or two people were on board.

Kent and Essex police forces have also carried out a land search for the aircraft.



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