Search for Downed Plane and Pilot

OFF KAUAI (KHNL) - U.S. Coast Guard crews are searching for a plane and its pilot that went down in the waters off Kauai early Monday morning.

The manager of Alpine Air says there are dangers involved in flying, something he and everyone who gets into the cockpit knows. But waiting to hear about the downed pilot who worked for them, has turned this into a very difficult time for the company.

"It's the phone call you never want to receive, we're doing all we can to find the pilot that's our entire focus at this point," said David Dart with Alpine Air.

An Alpine Air cargo plane took off from Honolulu airport at 4:45 Monday morning but went down on its approach to Lihue, during a routine mail delivery.

Coast Guard planes and helicopters were called in, and quickly discovered debris on the water.

"They found a door, inflated life raft and possibly piece of nose," said Lt. Andrea Holt with the Coast Guard Search and Rescue.

But no sign of the pilot in the ten-mile wide debris field located about seven miles offshore of Kauai. There was unsettling information uncovered by Lihue radar operators, from the moments just before the plane disappeared.

"On their electronic means, they were able to see the aircraft had dropped 2,200 feet in a matter of seconds," said Holt.

Alpine Air says the 38-year-old pilot is an experienced one, and all their planes are functioning properly. "These are highly maintained planes, up to FAA standards and rigorous maintenance program," Dart added.

Investigators do not know if windy weather was a factor in this crash, but weather has been a challenge in the search effort. "Seas have been up to 15 feet and the winds 25 knots. The winds are an extreme factor on drift and what a person would do in the water," said Holt.

The search for the missing pilot will continue throughout the night Monday, by Coast Guard ships and helicopters. And flights for Alpine Air still go on as well. They continue to deliver mail across the state.