Update: Police search for missing pilot

Published 4:22 pm Monday, January 12, 2009

According to published reports, an Indiana pilot faked a distress call before he parachuted out of a small engine plane over Shelby County Sunday.

CNN reports Marc Schrenker, 38, “appears to have intentionally abandoned the plane after putting it on autopilot over the Birmingham, Alabama, area and parachuting to the ground Sunday night.”

CNN also reports Schrenker checked into a Harpersville hotel under a false name after ejecting from his small engine plane. The plane eventually crashed in the Florida Panhandle.

Schrenker approached a Childersburg police officer at a store and told the officer he had been in a canoeing accident. The officer didn’t know about the crash, and took Schrenker to the hotel, CNN reports. When police learned of the crash, they returned to hotel, but Schrenker was gone.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Harpersville police and Childersburg police are now searching for Schrenker. Attempts to reach Childersburg Police Capt. Shane Burnette and Harpersville Police Chief David Latimer have been unsuccessful.

Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, said Schrenker was flying to Destin, Fla. from Anderson, Ind., when he exited his eight-passenger Piper Malibu plane.

At 7:20 p.m. Sunday, Schrenker made a distress call to air traffic controllers in Hampton, Ga., located 30 miles south of Atlanta, Bergen said.

“Air traffic control lost contact with the pilot but observed the plane traveling on the radar toward the crash scene,” Bergen said.

Bergen said careful review of radar data led FAA to believe that Schrenker may have exited the aircraft shortly after the distress call.

Bergen said the plane later crashed at 9:20 p.m. Sunday near Milton, Fla. in Santa Rosa County.