Coast Guard Sector Charleston sets open house Saturday (copy) (copy)

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. File/Provided

The Coast Guard continued its search Friday for a small airplane that went missing off Charleston a day earlier.

Flight-tracking websites showed a Piper PA-31 owned by a Delaware company flying southward over the Atlantic Ocean toward the Bahamas when it suddenly fell off radar.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would not confirm specifics about the plane until it's found and its occupants are identified, regional spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Officials were able to confirm that there were five people aboard the missing airplane.

Information on, a worldwide tracking service that pulls data from air traffic control systems, is consistent with the details authorities have released.

Bound for the Bahamas, the airplane took off Thursday morning from the Robert F. Swinnie Airport in Andrews in western Georgetown County, officials have said.

The Coast Guard said air traffic controllers later got a report of an in-flight emergency, then lost contact with the plane about 100 miles southeast of Charleston.

PA-31 (copy)

A Piper PA-31 similar to this was reported missing around 11:45 a.m. about 100 miles south-southeast of Charleston, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Greg Goebel/Creative Commons.

Coast Guard helicopters, an airplane from Florida and the Cutter Hamilton, a ship based in North Charleston, had searched 2,600 square miles of the ocean surface by midday Friday, the agency said, but it had not announced discovery of the aircraft.

The Hamilton's crew also planned to search overnight, according to the Coast Guard. and other websites identified the plane as a 1976 two-engine Piper owned by Bulldog Flying Club Inc. in Wilmington, Del. The eight-seat plane had reached an altitude of nearly 25,000 feet and a top speed of about 270 mph, the data showed. Those numbers dipped before radar lost contact.

FlightAware missing plane

Flight-tracking data showed a small airplane that took off in Georgetown County fall off radar 100 miles from Charleston during a flight toward the Bahamas.

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Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414. Follow him on Twitter @offlede.

Andrew Knapp is editor of the Quick Response Team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.

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