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Tue, Nov 23, 2004

Let's Help Find Jeff

Controller Missed by Family, Friends

By ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin "Hognose" O'Brien

Every student pilot learns that controllers can help him when he's lost -- "Climb, Conserve, Confess, Comply" and they can give you a bearing and distance to an airport or navaid, or vector you home. Some student pilots actually use that facility. Some pilots who aren't students do, too (although they usually fib about it afterward). And even when you're not lost or not even, as Daniel Boone called it, "a mite bewildered," that calm, confident voice from the Tower or Center or TRACON is a comfort in the clouds or the night. Controllers are great folks who put up with many of the hassles pilots do ("fill the cup to the line, please"), and don't even get the view from the front office for their trouble.

Well, here's a chance for us pilots and other aviation folks to return the favor. Controller Jeff Nichols, originally from Virginia, stood up his ex and his seven-year-old son for breakfast in Midvale, UT June 8th, something completely out of character. He hasn't been seen since. His pickup was found five weeks later in Salt Lake City -- some of his co-workers had spent countless hours driving the streets looking for it. His bank account hasn't been touched. He hadn't made any preparations to go away. "I saw him the afternoon before he disappeared and he said he would see me early the next day," Ken Whitaker, who worked the Salt Lake International tower with Jeff, remembers. His fellow controllers have made powerful statements about Jeff's character and conscientiousnes, and the controllers' union, NATCA, has joined the Salt Lake media in trying to spread the word.

Salt Lake City police are stymied. They have no proof of foul play, but they simply don't have a lot to go on. Utah, largely populated by easygoing, family-centered Mormons, is not a hotbed of disappearances or of crime. (Jeff's is one of only two new names on the state's missing persons list this year). Jeff's family offers a reward for information, but reward aside, he has a sister, parents, and a little boy who deserve to know what happened.

If you can help, call Utah Crime Solvers at 1-800-972-2255, or e-mail his family at helpfindjeff@yahoo.com. If you can't, pass it on. Someone out there knows what happened to Jeff Nichols.

"Salt Lake, we're looking."

FMI: www.helpfindjeff.com

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