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Famed test pilot's plane missing

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Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Georgia
Aviation

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Authorities were searching early Thursday for a small plane registered to a famed test pilot that vanished from radar on Wednesday on a flight from Prattville, Alabama, to Manassas, Virginia.

Air traffic control last had contact with the plane registered to test pilot Scott Crossfield about 11 a.m. Wednesday when it was about 10 miles southwest of Ellijay, Georgia, about 60 miles north of Atlanta, an FAA spokeswoman told CNN.

The spokeswoman said she could not confirm who was aboard the single engine plane.

Crossfield, 84, was the first man to fly the X-15 rocket-powered plane and made aeronautical history in 1953 by becoming the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).

While at NACA -- the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor for NASA -- Crossfield was the test pilot for several research aircraft and won dozens of awards and honors for his pioneering work. He also served as an executive for Eastern Airlines and Hawker Siddley Aviation, according to his NASA biography.

When he retired in 1983, he received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the biography noted.

Crossfield's test pilot character was immortalized in the book by Tom Wolfe, "The Right Stuff," and portrayed by actor Scott Wilson in the movie of the same name.

Capt. Paige Joyner of the Civil Air Patrol also would not confirm the identity of the pilot but said the family had reported no contact.

Joyner said the plane departed Prattville, about 12 miles northwest of Montgomery, at about 9 a.m.

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