Missing Zephyrhills plane found six months later

Authorities believe they have solved a mystery that had baffled authorities for months.

Theodore Weiss fires up his homebuilt Sonex plane not long before he disappeared from the Marion County Airport. Authorities believe they found a crash site with his plane markings and the remains of a man not far from the airport. (Courtesy of the Florida Sonex Association)

Theodore Weiss fires up his homebuilt Sonex plane not long before he disappeared from the Marion County Airport. Authorities believe they found a crash site with his plane debris and the remains of what is believed to be the pilot not far from the airport. (Courtesy of the Florida Sonex Association)

A hiker reportedly found the wreckage of a plane of a Zephyrhills pilot that has been missing since last April. A plane said to be the Sonex homebuilt airplane flown by Theodore Weiss was located at the Pruitt Trailhead in Dunellon, according to the Ocala Star-Banner. Skeletal remains have been found at the site, but authorities have yet to determine if they belong to Weiss.

The debris was white with a green stripe, and had the tail number “N229P,” which matches the description of Weiss’ plane, the newspaper said. That’s just a short distance from the Marion County Airport, where Weiss was last seen during the Florida Sonex Association’s Spring Sonex Fest.

Weiss departed the airport alone April 5, and was supposed to arrive in Zephyrhills a couple hours later. However, he never arrived. Officials as well as friends, family and members of the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol began a massive search, trying to locate the plane in the heavy woods in both Marion and Hernando counties.

The plane was a fixed-wing, single-engine plane with two seats, according to aviation tracking site FlightAware. Weiss purchased it in February 2012, and it was originally owned by a Georgia man in 2006. It changed hands a couple times before Weiss bought it.

Sonex planes are self-build kit planes manufactured out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The planes themselves have a range between 400 and 550 miles, depending on the engine used, according to the Sonex Aircraft website. They can fly between 16,000 and 23,000 feet.

Officials from both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive on the site Monday.

Missing plane search expands into Brooksville area

As the search for a Zephyrhills pilot and his plane concluded its fourth day, members of Civil Air Patrol’s Florida Wing and local officials have pushed their search further south into the Brooksville area.

Theodore Weiss was last seen taking off from a social pilot gathering in Dunellon Saturday in his two-seat, single-engine Sonex homebuilt plane, but never made it to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

Radar, however, showed Weiss’ plane heading not to Zephyrhills, but toward the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville instead. That created questions among some observers on why he would stray off-course.

But officials with Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force, said such a flight path would be common for cautious pilots like Weiss flying in experimental planes.

“Mr. Weiss and the members of the Florida Sonex Association are cautious pilots,” said Maj. Willard Garman, CAP incident commander for the search, said in a release. “They routinely flew this particular route not only so that a nearby airport was always within each reach, but so that they nearby Suncoast Parkway was both a landmark and a potential emergency landing site.”

CAP officials said they were expanding their search area along the Brooksville route to see if Weiss may have flown further than his radar track indicated. That now expands the search area from Citrus to Hernando counties.

Weiss was first reported missing Monday when relatives and friends realized he never returned, and found his car still parked at the Zephyrhills airport with both Weiss and his plane missing.

Weiss’ plane is white with green and black stripes. Anyone with information is asked to contact their local sheriff’s office. The non-emergency number for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is (727) 844-7711. They also can email the Florida Wing at .

Search for missing pilot turns to Citrus County

Aerial searches continue Wednesday by Civil Air Patrol’s Florida Wing for a Zephyrhills pilot and his single-engine plane that has been missing since Saturday.

Those efforts are now focused on the Withlacoochee State Forest for Theodore Weiss and his Sonex homebuilt airplane. It was last seen Saturday at a Sonex event in Dunellon, when Weiss took off to head back to Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. However, family members declared him missing on Monday when his car was found at the airport and no sign of him or his plane.

Florida Wing aircraft are flying different routes to try and search the dense forest. Radar, according to officials, last detected Weiss’ plane in the area.

The forest is one of the largest state forests in Florida, covering more than 157,000 acres in Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Sumter counties.

Searches also will be conducted along the route Weiss would have flown toward Zephyrhills had he turned in that direction from his last known location, Civil Air Patrol spokesman Maj. Joseph Tomasone said in a release.

The plane is white with green and black stripes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact their local sheriff’s office. The non-emergency number for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is (727) 844-7711.