ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A pilot whose single-engine plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey was heading to Atlantic City to attend a safety program for pilots, the man's wife said.
In the final two hours before the crash, the plane's radio was silent, federal investigators said Friday as the Coast Guard suspended the search for the pilot.
The Mooney M20 aircraft departed from Gaylord, Michigan, on Thursday and was headed to Atlantic City International Airport when it crashed into the ocean, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The pilot was identified by his wife as 68-year-old Michael Moir, of Gaylord. Jean Moir told The Press of Atlantic City that her husband had been flying planes for 40 years and was slated to attend a safety program for Mooney pilots over the weekend.
"He never missed one," she said. "He liked to go and talk to the other pilots about issues they may be having."
The National Transportation Safety Board said it's not yet clear what might have happened.
Coast Guard Capt. Benjamin Cooper said searchers suspended their active efforts pending further developments because of the time that has passed since the crash and information gathered from the searches.
The Coast Guard, along with state police and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had searched a debris field by plane and ship about 7 miles off the coast of Atlantic City.
Flight tracking software showed the plane at around 20,000 feet above the airport then quickly descending over two minutes — at 1,113 feet per minute to 5,438 feet per minute — while heading out to sea. FlightAware data analyst Ryan Jorgenson said the descent rate wasn't normal.
Jorgenson also said that around the time the plane flew over the airport, thunderstorms were in the area and visibility was low.
The unpressurized plane flew at around 25,000 feet for most of its trip. The FAA requires pilots to use supplemental oxygen when flying above 12,500 feet for more than a half hour. Jorgensen said previous flight records show the plane flying at higher altitudes.