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Coast Guard ends search for Brookfield pilot missing after crash

Aug. 31, 2014
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By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 31, 2014 0

The U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday called off its search for a Brookfield man whose plane left Waukesha on Saturday before running out of fuel and crashing into the Atlantic Ocean after he mysteriously lost consciousness and contact with aviation officials.

Retired Harley-Davidson executive Ronald Hutchinson, 67, was on a personal trip, his son Patrick Hutchinson said Sunday. He said his father had been flying for 40 years and was in very good health.

"I want to applaud the efforts of the Coast Guard," he said. "All the federal agencies involved kept us informed of every step of this."

Only a wheel and a piece of cowling had been found, by a fisherman in the vicinity of the crash, about 50 miles southeast of Chincoteague Island, Va., according to the Coast Guard.

As the single-engine plane entered restricted air space near Washington, D.C., fighter jets scrambled to inspect it. Those pilots reported that the operator of the small plane appeared to be unconscious. The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday the pilot had stopped responding to radio communications about 1 p.m.

The Coast Guard said an HC-130 Hercules plane and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter searched the area for the downed pilot on Saturday afternoon until dark, and a Coast Guard ship continued the search through the night.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

The Cirrus SR20 plane was registered to Hutchinson. It had been scheduled to land at Manassas (Va.) Regional Airport on Saturday afternoon. It left from Crites Field in Waukesha.

Hutchinson is a retired Harley-Davidson senior vice president for product design. He was among a handful of senior Harley officials who had been considered to be in the running to become the firm's CEO until the company hired Keith Wandell from Johnson Controls in 2009.

"This is horrible news," Harley-Davidson spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim said Sunday. "It's always terrible to lose a member of the Harley-Davidson family. We are grieving his loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Since retirement, Hutchinson had worked as a consultant and until just recently had served as chairman of the board of Wiscraft Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping blind people find employment in manufacturing.

Bruce Vielmetti thumbnail
About Bruce Vielmetti

Bruce Vielmetti writes about legal affairs.

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