The Cessna 182 was en route to Santa Monica from San Diego and had only one person on board, said Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The pilot’s identity was not released pending notification of his family. Lt. Larry Dietz of the L.A. County coroner’s office said investigators were unable to retrieve the man’s body because of inclement weather, which hampered much of the search-and-rescue effort.
The fixed-wing single-engine plane departed from Montgomery Field in San Diego about 7:30 a.m. At some point over Los Angeles County, the plane veered northeast from its path to Santa Monica, according to radar information from the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
The radar lost contact with the plane about 8:30 a.m., when it was about 17 miles east of Van Nuys, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The disappearance of the plane prompted officials to launch a search-and-rescue effort that swelled to include six teams and about 50 sheriff’s reserve deputies and volunteers, Navarro-Suarez said.
But the search was delayed by foul weather and limited information.
Fog and thick cloud cover prevented a complete aerial search of the dense forest, while those hiking in the steep terrain contended with thick brush that limited visibility.
The search had focused on the area near Mt. Wilson.
“We just know the last place it pinged,” L.A. County Fire Department Supervisor Bernard Peters said earlier in the day.
The fog lifted late in the afternoon and an aerial team located the plane shortly after 5 p.m. in a craggy spot along the south side of Brown Mountain. The mountain, about four miles north of Altadena, is named for the abolitionist John Brown.
The plane was registered to a San Diego-based company, San Diego Skylane LLC, according to FAA registration records. The crash is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.