Pilot changed course, new info shows

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 26, 2001

Bad weather prevented civil air patrol pilots from searching thearea for a pilot missing since Nov. 15, but the search continuedaround Covington, La., where new information leads them to suspecthe diverted.

“The bad weather didn’t allow us to do anything local today,”said Johnny Taylor, search coordinator for the CAP. “We did haveone plane flying search grids around Covington.”

Jeff Allen, 46, of 2712 Nola Road, was last heard from Nov. 16around 2 a.m. while he and Dr. Larry Stewart of McComb were flyingback from Ocean Springs in separate planes after performing in aband at the Grand Casino in Biloxi.

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Stewart was able to reach Allen by radio earlier in the evening,but was unable to contact him after landing in McComb. Stewart didnot report him missing until he failed to show for a Fridaymeeting.

Taylor said the planes were on radar until about five milessouth of McComb. They were not spotted again, but Taylor saidStewart had landed and the low altitude may have made Allen’s planeundetectable.

New information obtained from a radar track seems to indicatethat Allen turned south near Poplarville on a course for Covingtonshortly after 1:30 a.m., Taylor said. He could not explain why thecourse change would be made. At 2 a.m., it appears Allen was nearBogalusa, La.

Stewart’s Cessna 172 is easier to track than Allen’s Cessna 152,Taylor said.

“The radar check for the 152 was not very clear,” he said.”Apparently he didn’t have the transponder on, which makes iteasier to track. That isn’t unusual for private pilots.”

Allen’s track appears to cross Stewart’s near Bogalusa, hesaid.

“It looks like from there he went on towards Covington,” Taylorsaid.

Although the CAP searches for any downed pilot, the newinformation could cast a cloud of doubt over efforts in thisparticular case.

Allen was released on a $50,000 bond following his arrest on analleged drug violation, according to Sheriff Lynn Boyte, andcircuit court records show he was indicted in March on charges ofunlawful manufacture of marijuana.

The sheriff said earlier there was no evidence to connect thecharges to Allen’s disappearance.

At the time of Allen’s change of course, Taylor said, Brookhavenwas closer than Covington. Had Allen developed mechanical problemswith the aircraft, he was near or had overflown several smallairfields, such as those at Poplarville, Tylertown andBogalusa.

CAP volunteers, however, are not concerned with motives. Theironly desire is to find the aircraft if it went down.

“I agree with the track,” Taylor said. “It seems to be thatairplane. I just can’t say why he changed course. Law enforcementis not our area. We just search for the aircraft.”

CAP efforts will be concentrated in the Covington area Sundaybased on the information obtained from the radar track.