Anybody's Guess

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: An Air Force briefing provided few answers in the continuing search for Captain Craig Button and his A-10 attack jet. Deputy Air Force chief of staff Major General Donald Peterson would not comment on an emerging theory that a despondent Button committed suicide by crashing the jet into New York mountain, where some 20 reports of smoke and explosions have led would-be rescuers to concentrate their search. "I wouldn't speculate on family affairs here," Peterson said, adding that the Air Force was operating under the assumption that Button could still be alive. "I will only talk about search and rescue. . . We are interested in finding the pilot first of all and his airplane." Some 185 flights by dozens of aircraft ranging from U-2 spy planes to Army helicopters have joined the search, which as been slowed by severe weather. The Air Force has given up an earlier theory that the plane vered off course while on autopilot after radar data and visual sightings suggest that Button was in control of the plane. CNN has reported that a religious conversion by Button's mother may have caused Button to be suicidal. "That's certainly the buzz right now in the pilot's community," says TIME's Mark Thompson. "But most attempted suicides are unsuccessful because the person backs out at the last second. From the time Button broke formation, he had 120 minutes to think it over, to turn back, and he didn't." Even considering Button's possible family troubles, Thompson says: "It's hard to picture, in a suicide, that kind of calm, steely mindset."