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Sierra search on for Valley philanthropist

by Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

Air and ground units were searching the west slope of the Sierra Nevada on Thursday for Robert H. “Budge” Brown’s Lancair aircraft, which was last heard from over Amador County.

Brown took off from Minden-Tahoe Airport at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to pick up a friend in Tracy and then go fishing, according to his family attorney J.D. Sullivan.

Brown was expected to arrive at Tracy 45 minutes later. Searchers started looking for him Wednesday night, when he didn’t arrive. They checked airport ramps in the area, to make sure he hadn’t landed somewhere else.

Civil Air Patrol Capt. Matt Scherzi said that under visual flight rules there was no requirement that Brown file a flight plan.

Wading through 6-10 feet of snow, ground units from Amador County Sheriff Search, Rescue Team Nordic Units, the Civil Air Patrol and a California Highway Patrol helicopter are looking for the Carson Valley philanthropist, said Scherzi.

“The owner of the aircraft was very experienced according to his family,” Scherzi said. “He had flown the route 200-300 times.”

Scherzi said it appeared from the radar track that Brown flew over Lake Tahoe to possibly avoid thunderstorms, before turning south.

“He turned south, we think because there were thunderstorms in the area,” Scherzi said. “He was last tracked east of Sacramento over terrain 6,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation.”

While Brown was last detected over eastern Amador County, Scherzi said searchers have examined the rest of his route to a private Tracy, Calif., airfield.

The single-engine Lancair aircraft was painted white, which is making it difficult for searchers to find in the snow.

Searchers were listening for emergency radio broadcasts from Brown or any signal from an emergency locator transmitter.

“We’re not certain he’s in Amador, but we know we don’t have to look on the east side of the Sierra,” Scherzi said.

Sullivan said the radar showed the aircraft made a rough, rapid descent.

Brown has been a long-time supporter of Douglas County’s Relay for Life, naming a winery Cleavage Creek Cellars in 2007 to support research into breast cancer.

His efforts were to honor his wife of 48 years, Arlene, who died in 2005 of breast cancer.

According to a Record-Courier story, Cleavage Creek donates 10 percent of the gross sales of six different wines to efforts to find a cure.

Brown owned property in Douglas County, Carson City and California.