Small plane missing after leaving Southern California island

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 7:43 PM
Small plane missing after leaving Southern California island

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A small plane carrying a student pilot and veteran instructor remained missing Tuesday after a weekend flight to Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California.

Aerial searches covering hundreds of square miles of ocean found no signs of the single-engine Cessna 172, which flew to the resort island's airport on Saturday. It vanished after taking off from Catalina Airport en route to Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles later that afternoon.

"The whole situation is kind of a mystery," said Alex Abbassi, operations director for the student pilot's school, Encore Flight Academy at Van Nuys Airport.

The student, Edmond Haronian, is 90 percent of the way toward earning his private pilot's license and has become a close friend since starting training a year ago, Abbassi said.

"He was very close to taking his final test to get his pilot's license," Abbassi said. He identified the instructor as Jason Glazier, who has some 30 years of flight instruction experience.

The flight was arranged between the student and the instructor, Abbassi said.

The airplane they took was in excellent condition after undergoing a complete inspection in March, Abbassi said. It had flown only 60 hours since then.

On Catalina, Haronian posted some pictures on Facebook and then around 1 p.m. the two took off, Abbassi said, describing the weather as good for the trip.

The two fliers and their plane were not known to be missing until a Haronian family member contacted the flight school Sunday afternoon with concerns.

Abbassi said the Federal Aviation Administration was notified, and calls were placed to the men's cellphones and to airports. The Coast Guard also sent aircraft to aid in the search effort.

Abbassi noted it would not have automatically been a concern that they did not return Saturday because they could have decided to stay on the island. He said it remained a possibility — but a "very, very unlikely" one — that the two had decided to go somewhere else.

"Our prayers go with the family," he said.