Was JFK Trying To Fly To His
Favorite Estate? Plane Debris
Drifts Ashore Close By
By James Bone
In Martha's Vineyard

The timetable
The wreckage of John F. Kennedy Jr's light aircraft lapped ashore on Martha's Vineyard just yards from his late mother's beach-front estate on the millionaires' island.
The proximity of the crash to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's 365-acre retreat prompted speculation that "John-John" had been trying to "buzz" the property to show it off to his wife and sister-in-law on their final approach to the airport.
Mrs Kennedy bought the wooded estate in 1981, on what is the favoured summer retreat of America's liberal elite.
Since his mother's death, Mr Kennedy had preferred the seclusion of the estate on the Moshup Trail, which he inherited with his sister, to the better-known Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port on nearby Cape Cod.
"It's biblical," Ethan Silverman, a New York screenwriter, commented about the location of the accident as he paced a local beach. "All I can think of is: thank God she's not here to see this."
Local people complained that it was common for home-owners to "buzz" their properties on the island to show off to friends.
One theory yesterday was that Mr Kennedy's plane could have been caught in a thermal updraft caused by the clay cliffs of Gay Head, a bluff at the southwest tip of the island.
Alternatively, the novice pilot might have been seeking out the landmark of Gay Head's famous lighthouse to help to guide him home.
The first wreckage - luggage with Lauren Bessette's Morgan Stanley D Witter business card as its identification tag and an aircraft nose wheel - was found off Philbin's Beach, less than a mile from the Kennedy estate on a point overlooking the Atlantic.
On its best days, the remote beach along the southwest tip of the island is a haven for nudist bathers, who climb the cliffs and cover themselves all over with sticky grey clay.
On its worst days, like yesterday, few people prowl the glowering shoreline. Police cordoned off about six miles of beach.
"The impact has been shock and tragedy," said Avi Morrow, who has a house on Gay Head.
"The people on the island, especially in this area, identify with the Kennedys because Jackie Kennedy Onassis had a beautiful home right near Philbin Beach, a low-key understated home."
The islanders are used to having famous neighbours - and they are used to leaving them alone. Among the celebrities who have homes on the island are the iconic American newscasters Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, President Clinton's friend and Washington power lawyer, Vernon Jordan, and the novelist William Styron.
Diana, Princess of Wales, spent a summer on the island and President Clinton has also taken a holiday here. The Clintons are considering returning to Martha's Vineyard this summer unless the First Lady needs to spend her holiday in New York because of her senatorial ambitions in the state.
As the world's press descended on the island, police voiced fears that "treasure hunters" would steal debris from the plane because of America's obsession with Kennedy memorabilia - evidenced by Sotheby's spectacularly successful sale of the late Mrs Kennedy's heirlooms.
Robert Bird, spokesman for Massachusetts state police, said there had been no arrests for taking wreckage, but that removing items from the scene of an aircraft accident was a crime.
A slow-flying Coast Guard plane and at least one helicopter could be seen scouring the waves off Gay Head in hazy fog. But few Coast Guard vessels were visible from the lighthouse and lobster fishermen went about their business.
The timetable
The Kennedy drama began at 8.15pm on Friday when John F. Kennedy Jr, limping from a recent paragliding injury, arrived at Fairfield airport in New Jersey (Ian Brodie writes).
He was joined by his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren at the Piper Saratoga II HP Mr Kennedy bought in April.
8.38pm Friday: The group takes off for Martha's Vineyard to drop off Lauren Bessette before flying on to the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port for the wedding of Mr Kennedy's cousin Rory.
9.38pm: The last radar track of the plane, 17 miles southwest of Martha's Vineyard. The blips indicate that the plane went from its cruising height of 5,500ft to 2,200ft in a normal descent, then dropped to 1,300ft in 12 seconds, at a rate of 4,500ft per minute.
After midnight: Uneasiness sets in among the Kennedy clan at the Hyannis Port compound.
2.15am Saturday: A family friend reports the missing plane to the US Coast Guard, which immediately checks that it has not landed at another airfield. The Federal Aviation Administration is informed.
3am: The FAA notifies the US Air Force Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Virginia.
3.30am: The Air Force receives an emergency signal from northern Long Island, south of Martha's Vineyard. Rescuers search the area for three hours but find nothing.
7am: President Clinton is awoken at Camp David with news that the plane is overdue.
7.30am: The Coast Guard begins an aggressive search, later narrowed to the Martha's Vineyard area when the plane's radar records are found. Officers defend the five-hour delay in starting the search, saying they had to organise the air and sea flotilla and wait for daylight.
Early Saturday afternoon: A piece of luggage bearing the name tag of Lauren Bessette washes up on southwestern Martha's Vineyard. Later an aircraft headrest, a tyre and part of a landing gear are found.