An aviation company found the bodies of two of its pilots near a pile of wreckage Friday in the Pinal County desert after a plane went missing for half an hour.
Two men, whose names haven’t been released, were found lying 20 feet from the wreckage about 2:30 p.m., seven miles east of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, near Ocotillo and Schnepf roads, officials said.
“It’s terrible what happened and we are saddened and we want to give our deepest sympathies and prayers to the family,” said Paul Ransbury, president of the Mesa-based Aviation Performance Solutions,
which owned the Extra 300 model aircraft.
Ransbury said that prior to the crash, a student and instructor — both certified pilots — were practicing how to recover from “certain maneuvers.”
He wouldn’t say if they were performing dangerous tricks.
The student had come to Mesa for several days of training.
The instructor had more than 20 years of experience.
The red, white and blue plane had been flying for about an hour and was overdue to return to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, so employees of the company went out to search.
Ransbury said personnel had communicated with the plane only 30 minutes before it went down.
It had plenty of fuel and was headed back to the airport.
“We don’t know what caused this yet,” Ransbury said.
Ransbury said his company, located at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, specializes in fun flights and training exercises.
On Friday evening, emotional family members of one pilot gathered in Ransbury’s office.
Following the crash, paramedics and investigators responded to the scene in helicopters due to the harsh desert landscape that prohibited officials from driving into the area.
Rural/Metro spokeswoman Kory Reddn, said a Life Net medical helicopter that happened to be in the area witnessed the plane crash.
The plane is a high-performance single-engine propeller aircraft used in air races, air acrobatics and stunts, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.
Gregor said the FAA doesn’t yet know why the plane crashed and that there were no communication or distress calls sent from the pilot.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident and Mesa and Queen Creek fire departments are assisting Rural/Metro and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.