It's business as usual outside Civil Air Patrol in Hernando County with troops engaged in maneuvers. But inside, crews are trying to explain the mysterious disappearance of Ted Weiss and his experimental aircraft.
"We know the plane left Dunnellon in Marion County and traveled south. We lost radar contact here in the Withlacoochee State Forest," says Major Joseph Tomasone.
The mystery began Monday when Weiss was reported missing, expected to return to Zephyrhills Airport, but never arrived. Ground and air crews began a grid search of hundreds of miles in Citrus County.
"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Tomasone.
"We basically asked, 'have you seen this man,' and we checked all the ramps of nearby airports and also all wooded areas," said Captain Yvonne Rodriguez.
The oddities of the disappearance are numerous. Weiss' cell phone was left in Dunnellon, he didn't file a flight plan, and adding to the mystery is the lack of a distress signal from the aircraft's emergency location transmitter, which is designed to initiate upon impact.
"We're looking in a deeply wooded area, but that doesn't mean the plane went down. We don't know what happened to it yet," said Tomasone.
The ground search has been suspended for Tuesday evening. Air recon will continue throughout the night, and ground crews will rejoin them Wednesday morning.