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Pilot disappears over Africa
She left Wimauma last week. Friday, no more word.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007
There seemed no adventure too grand for Lori Love.
She flew helicopters, carrying logs from the Alaskan wilderness. She was a skydiving expert. Her piloting skills were so smooth she taught others daredevil aerobatics.
"She was one of the best seat-of-your-pants pilots I've ever seen," said Steve Hall, owner of Wings of Eagles, a Tampa aircraft-delivery company.
Love, 57, flew out of Wimauma last week to deliver a six-seat Beechcraft A36 plane to a private buyer in South Africa.
She headed first to Maine, then the Azores before she dropped in at the Canary Islands and Accra, Ghana. From there, she radioed in, said she lost an alternator but had a spare.
Love had a routine radio transmission with another pilot about an hour after she flew out of Accra, Hall said.
She headed on to Windhoek, Namibia's capital, where she planned to refuel before the trip to Cape Town. That was Friday night.
No one has heard from her since.
"Something catastrophic had to happen," Hall said.
In the days since her disappearance, African authorities have searched for her with no luck. No signal has been found of her whereabouts. She never activated a handheld emergency Global Positioning System beacon, Hall said. No sign of the plane either.
Hall held out hope for days. If there's anyone who can survive, it's Love, he thought. A week later, Hall had begun to fear the worst.
He headed to Love's home in Wichita, Kan., on Thursday afternoon. He planned to meet Love's father and to meet Jeda, Love's beloved cat.
Before Love left on trips, she would leave behind a list of people who could be "godparents" for Jeda, Hall said. Love rescued Jeda years ago, and she nursed the cat back to health.
Now, Hall plans to deliver Jeda to a new home with Love's friend in Gainesville, where Love was pursuing a doctorate in special education, Hall said.
Love was precisely the sort of person Hall looks for when he hires pilots: a free spirit, fiercely independent, talented.
She had 15,000 hours as a pilot. She parachuted 4,000 times, Hall said. When on land, she drove her 1970s Dodge Maxivan, which had at least 555,000 miles.
"Everything I own is inside it," Love told a National Air and Space Museum photographer for a 1997 book about women pilots.
"I honestly thought by now I would be tired of that lifestyle and be ready to settle down, but it hasn't happened."
Love worked for Hall in the 1970s, then quit to pursue other things until early this year. She told him she was bored, that she wanted to travel again.
She always picked the unusual places. It was never England or France for Love. She wanted to go to Pakistan, India and Africa.
And she loved to go it alone.
"Her biggest fault was she was a lone wolf," Hall said. "If she had been coordinating with ... another pilot, we might have had some insight (into her disappearance)."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org