JOHANNESBURG (AP) – An American pilot employed by a conservation group is missing after air traffic controllers lost contact with his small plane between Nigeria and Cameroon, the group said.
Pilot Bill Fitzpatrick reported to the control tower at Douala, Cameroon on Sunday night that he was approaching the city, but the aircraft did not land, said non-profit African Parks, which is based in Johannesburg and manages seven national parks in six countries.
Fitzpatrick, who is from Chelan in Washington state, was flying alone, according to African Parks. It said Cameroon and U.S. authorities were helping to search for the plane, but their efforts were hampered by the mountainous, heavily forested terrain.
The Cessna 172 was to be used for anti-poaching surveillance and was flown from the United States to Senegal, where Fitzpatrick picked it up last week. His final destination was to be Congo; Fitzpatrick is employed at the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which is run by African Parks.
The park’s manager, David Zeller, said U.S. government agencies are trying to track the Cessna’s emergency transmitter but have not picked up any signal. Such a device transmits a locator signal on a plane’s impact or if the pilot activates it.
Fitzpatrick previously worked as a ranger and pilot at North Cascades National Park in Washington state and Arctic National Park in Alaska.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)