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Crews search 40,000+ acres for missing pilot | News

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Crews search 40,000+ acres for missing pilot

Lecanto, Florida -- Right now, more than 125 people are scouring some of the thickest woods in Florida searching for missing pilot Theodore Weiss.

Investigators believe his small plane likely went down Saturday in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Citrus County after he left Dunnellon Airport near Ocala, heading for Zephyrhills.

The huge effort to find the pilot and his plane is based out of a command post on the edge of the forest in Lecanto.

Teams there have come from all over, including firefighters from Ocala and deputies from places closer to home like Spring Hill.

Given orders and search areas just after sunrise, more than 100 people from eight public agencies fanned out.

They need to cover 40,000 acres of state forest. It's the area Ted Weiss was crossing when his experimental plane vanished from radar Saturday.

Search for missing plane raises more questions than answers

"What we're looking for is not easy to spot," Commander Buddy Grant of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office said.

"People think 'a plane,' you know. But depending how it went in -- if it did crash -- and how it crashed, it could be a very small footprint. It could be about the size of a lawnmower."

Sheriff's Posse volunteers on horseback joined professionals riding ATVs and walking on foot to head into an enormous forest.

Hazards are everywhere: snakes, cactus, ankle-breaking potholes, even a suspect from another case who may be hiding in the very thick woods.

"Some of it's accessible by foot, some of it's accessible by vehicle, and some of it only by horseback," Grant said.

"So it's getting all of those things and the right resources in the right areas to make sure we don't miss anything."

There are several issues that add to the mystery of Weiss and his Sonex experimental aircraft. There has been no signal detected from the plane's emergency locator beacon that's designed to turn on if the aircraft crashes. He left his cell phone where he took off, in Dunnellon. He did not file a flight plan -- although he was not required by law to file one in this case. And when his plane disappeared from radar, it was not following a path that would take it to Zephyrhills, his home airport.

Teams have been working from the command post in Lecanto since Tuesday. They plan to search until nightfall Wednesday, and potentially beyond.