SPOONER LAKE - The wreckage of a plane found on a frozen Sierra Nevada lake Thursday was confirmed to contain the body of a missing Reno pilot, an official said.
Steve Brown, 51, was found in the cockpit of the overturned aircraft, which was spotted on Marlette Lake by an airborne searcher about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, said Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong.
"A civilian aircraft aiding in the search for Brown flew the Marlette area and saw the plane," said Furlong. He said a National Guard helicopter pilot was able to get low enough to confirm the aircraft was Browns' Pitts S-1 biplane, yellow and black with the numbers "00" and words "Tonopah Low" on its side.
"They later returned and identified the body inside," he said.
Brown was last seen flying south from the Carson City Airport at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after telling people there he was going to fly along the Carson River. Police began to search for the pilot after he hadn't returned home by Wednesday morning. He had fueled up prior to departure but only had enough fuel for an hour, Furlong said.
The plane was found near the Carson City and Washoe County border on the west edge of the 8,000-foot-elevation, man-made lake. It is the second largest Alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada to Lake Tahoe and is only accessible to the public by foot or mountain bike.
Furlong said the scene was turned over to the Washoe County Sheriff's Department and its Search and Rescue teams within an hour of its discovery.
About 3 p.m. two rescuers, pushing a canoe, walked from the shore across the lake's frozen, snow-covered surface to the wreckage.
A debris trail of about 90 feet could be seen from the air. The nose of the plane was severely damaged, it appeared to be missing its wings and looked to be lying on its top.
Furlong confirmed the aircraft "rolled.
"We can't draw any conclusions about what happened at this point," said Furlong. "We may never really know."
An American Airlines pilot, Brown flew his Pitts S-1 in local air shows. The aircraft is small at 15 feet, 6 inches long and a wing span of 17 feet, 4 inches. It weighs just more than 1,000 pounds. The plane had the third fastest time of 212.9 mph during its qualifying lap for the 2006 Reno National Championship Air Races. According to the race Web site, Brown was disqualified from the race when he missed a pylon during his second lap.
Officers from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board were en route to the scene to take over the investigation. The results of that investigation may not be available for months.
"On behalf of the Carson City Airport Authority, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the many agencies, pilots and friends for their efforts in the search for Steve Brown," said Yvon Weaver, airport manager in an e-mail. "Steve was a gifted pilot and a close friend to the airport community, and he will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to Steve's wife, Deana, and his entire family."
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.