An aerial search continued in Virginia early today for a single-engine airplane piloted by former Washington Board of Trade president Chester William Martin Jr. The plane was reported missing Friday after taking off from an airport near Richmond.
The Civil Air Patrol, which is coordinating and conducting the search, said the 69-year-old Martin was alone in a relatively new red-and-white Piper Super Cub, which took off about 7 p.m. Friday from the Chesterfield County Airport on a flight to Manassas Airport with a stop planned near Fredericksburg.
At its peak yesterday, 27 aircraft operating out of at least four airports were involved in the search, which began Saturday afternoon and resumed at 6 a.m. yesterday, according to CAP Lt. Col. Ralph H. Yost, the senior mission coordinator.
Yost described the search for the Bethesda resident and retired president of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Washington as "the largest one I can remember" in Virginia.
According to reports from the CAP and from relatives, Martin, a skilled and experienced pilot, had been visiting a friend in North Carolina. He took off on his return trip Friday from an airport in Washington, N.C., and stopped in Emporia, Va., before proceeding on to the Chesterfield County field, which is south of Richmond.
Authorities said no sightings have been reported since the takeoff from Chesterfield County. The plane carried enough fuel for 3 1/2 hours flying time when it took off, Yost said.
It was equipped with an electronic crash locator designed to broadcast on impact, but, Yost said, crash damage to the device's transmitting antenna could cause it to malfunction.
Late last night its signal had not been reported.
According to Yost, Martin had resumed flying recently after giving it up a few years ago.
He said Martin's relatives had told him that Martin was in good health and had logged 1,500 hours in the air, but occasionally became disoriented.
Although the search was at its peak in the daytime with as many as 150 persons taking part, one plane remained in the air after midnight this morning trying to pick up signals from Martin's crash locator.
This plane was reportedly concentrating its search on the area south of Fredericksburg's Shannon Airport, where Martin had planned to stop on his way to Manassas 30 miles farther north.
Suggesting that Martin may have navigated by following major interstate highways, Yost said that "any disorientation might have got him out Rte. 64 to Charlottesville."
The search has extended as far west as Charlottesville and as far east as the Eastern Shore, Yost said, and from the Leesburg area in the north to Emporia in the south.
The distance from Chesterfield to Fredericksburg is about 60 miles, which normally would require less than an hour's flying time. The main area searched yesterday measures about 160 miles square. At one time or another, pilots covered about 70 percent of Virginia, Yost said.
Martin, who was elected president of the Board of Trade in 1964, was president and chairman of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Washington until about three years ago.
He also has been director of the Circus Saints & Sinners Club, a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, and a director of the Boys Club of Washington.
He and his wife have four children. The family remained near the Manassas airport yesterday, waiting for news.