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Vintage biplane with six onboard missing in Australia

02 October 2012, 10:04

Sydney - A search was under way on Tuesday for a vintage red 1930s De Havilland biplane that is missing in Australia with six people on board after the pilot made a distress call.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is co-ordinating the search, said seven helicopters were involved in the hunt over land for the Dragon DH-84 plane, reportedly one of only four in the world.

The pilot had been raising funds for charity by giving scenic flights before the craft vanished in southeastern Queensland state as it was heading back to its base in Caboolture, about 44km north of Brisbane.

"The aircraft contacted air traffic services in Brisbane on Monday afternoon requesting assistance before activating an emergency beacon," AMSA said.

"The beacon is no longer being detected and [rescuers] have been unable to establish communications with the aircraft."

The 68-year-old pilot, Des Porter, survived a crash in the same plane 58 years ago which killed his father and brother, said Rod Robertson from the Gladstone Aero Club.

Ran out of fuel

"He survived the accident himself and then he found the aeroplane some years later in a hangar all disassembled - the very same aircraft - and then they put it back together and lovingly restored it," he told ABC radio.

Aaron Regan, a pilot with the Maroochydore and Bundaberg AGL Action Rescue Helicopters, which is involved in the search, said he believed it ran out of fuel during thick cloud and rain.

"Normally he would be flying visually, so he would be flying below the cloud line, but unfortunately he found himself in cloud," he told the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper.

"His first inkling as a pilot would have been to try to get out of it, and if you can't get out of it quickly, you need to climb and try not to hit anything."

Regan added that there were hopes Porter and his passengers were alive.

"We are hoping they broke free of the cloud and were able to make a controlled landing somewhere," he said.



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