Search Continues For Missing PlaneAP , Associated Press
Sep. 12, 1990 11:47 AM ET
ST. JOHN'S, CANADA ST. JOHN'S, Canada (AP) _ Searchers scoured the North Atlantic today for signs of a Boeing 727 jetliner that ran out of fuel and ditched at sea with 18 people aboard.
The jet, owned by Faucett Airlines of Lima, Peru, was carrying airline employees and members of their families when it disappeared Tuesday afternoon off Newfoundland.
Authorities said the plane strayed off course on a flight from the Mediterranean island of Malta to Miami.
All of the crew members were from Peru, and it was not clear if there were any survivors.
Eight Canadian planes were searching a 60,000-square-mile area centered 185 miles off Cape Race, Newfoundland, aided by ships. Two U.S. Air Force planes were sent from Detroit and Iceland to help search.
Tom Cole, a spokesman for the Boeing Co. in Seattle, said the Boeing- designed aircraft was capable of floating after ditching, perhaps for hours.
''We've done a lot of analysis on ditching and we designed the airplane with that possibility in mind,'' he said.
The 727's operating manual includes ditching procedures, ''how to set up the airplane, flaps down, gear up, what kind of speeds ... that kind of thing,'' he said.
This aircraft was delivered to Western Airlines in 1969 and had gone through several owners before being bought by Faucett, which leased it to Air Malta.
''We have a number of signals, we have several different soundings hundreds of miles apart,'' Walt Chipchase, a search and rescue spokesman in Halifax, said of attempts to find the plane from its emergency radio beacon.
Authorities said they had no explanation for unusual signals picked up by satellites, and did not know if they had come from a plane or life raft.
Equally mysterious was why the airplane was so far off course.
Authorities said the plane should have reached Gander, Newfoundland at 3 p.m. Tuesday for a routine refueling stop but that the pilot radioed a fuel emergency at 3:23 p.m. and said he was ditching hundreds of miles out to sea.
''We don't know why it was off course,'' Faucett Airlines spokesman Betty McDaniel said in Miami.
The jet had been under contract to Air Malta for about six months and was being returned to Faucett's operations base in Miami.
It had stopped in Keflavik, Iceland, but a refueling supervisor in Keflavik said there was no problem during the stop there.
Gander, in east central Newfoundland, is a major refueling stop for international flights between Europe and North America.