82-Year-Old Michigan Pilot Disappears During Flight

(VitalNews.org) – A search is underway for a missing 82-year-old aviation enthusiast who went missing while flying his plane on Sunday, September 10. Richard Martin was last seen taking off from Michigan’s Dowagiac Municipal Airport in an aircraft that he built in 2005 and regularly enjoyed flying around the local area.

The hobby pilot was reported missing when a family member became concerned about the length of time he had been away for. Martin’s usual flight pattern saw him return to the airport within two hours, and as the afternoon passed with no sign of his return, fears for his wellbeing increased.

Dowagiac police were notified of his unexpected absence, prompting them to begin their investigation at 8.13pm on the Sunday of Martin’s flight. Since then, the search has become a larger, multi-agency affair, with assistance being provided by South Bend Air Traffic Control, Michigan State Police, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The search may yet involve the Coast Guard as authorities investigate multiple reports of plane sightings made by members of the public, including some tip-offs made close to the Lake Michigan shoreline parallel to Kalamazoo.

Richard Martin is described as a well-experienced pilot with five decades of aviation experience under his belt. Dowagiac Municipal Airport manager, Oscar Azevedo, told reporters that Martin’s Sunday morning flight was a common part of the octogenarian’s week, and something he often did when the weather was good for flying.

Friends of Martin explained that as part of his Sunday routine, he would enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant before travelling to the airport with his wife, Kathy. While Richard would tend to his aircraft and make preparations for the flight, Kathy would usually take advantage of any sunshine and relax in a lawn chair, waiting for him to finish his flying for the day.

Kathy has expressed her hope for her husband’s safe return, a sentiment echoed by his long-time friend and former flight instructor Andrew Helmholdt. Helmholdt had recently purchased the self-built Sonex single-wing plane from Martin, but still let him borrow it for recreational flights. He told reporters that he hoped Martin would be found alive, perhaps stuck in the plane in a field and waiting for rescue.

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