Robert Sparks; Lon D. Shaw; 1970 Piper Cherokee 235; Similar aircraft with a different tail number (N8529N)
Name: Robert Douglas Sparks
Case Classification: Endangered Missing
Missing Since: November 19, 1972
Location Last Seen: McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas
Date of Birth: January 20 or 22, 1927
Age: 46 years old
Weight: 168 lbs.
Hair Color: Brown, short.
Eye Color: Brown
Distinguishing Marks/Features: Large scar on his right leg.
Clothing: Slacks, short-sleeve shirt, and a tan sweater.
Additional Personal Items: Unknown
Robert Douglas Sparks, known as Bob, was a retired Air Force Officer and private pilot. He had been hired by a man named Lon (Lonnie) D. Shaw to fly him around the lower Rio Grande Valley for two hours so that he could take pictures. Sparks rented a 1970 Piper Cherokee 235 (ID # N8529N; wine and white with gold trim) from Upper Valley Aviation in McAllen for the trip.
On November 19, 1972, Bob Sparks and Lonnie Shaw departed McAllen, Texas. Shaw was carrying two small pieces of luggage and a camera. At 1:50 P.M., Sparks cancelled his flight plan with the FAA and advised he was en route to Tampico, Mexico. Eight minutes later, Sparks reitereated the message after which all radio communication stopped.
Sparks had no papers to enter Mexico and would not have mentioned he was flying to Tampico unless he was under duress. The plane had fuel for a 500 mile flight.
Sparks had an appointment to give flight instructions set for 3:30 P.M., the day he disappeared. It is believed he would have cancelled the class if he had been able.
Lonnie Shaw was born circa 1934 and was 38 years old at the time. He was described as being 6'1" and 160 lbs. with a slim build and gray or graying hair. He had been in and out of several mental institutions.
Neither Bob Sparks nor Lonnie Shaw were heard from again. The aircraft tail number was de-registered in 1988. Bob Sparks left behind a wife and four children.
Agency Name: FBI - San Antonio Field Office
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 210-225-6741
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: 7-772
NCIC Case Number: Unknown
NamUs Case Number: Not listed
Family of Robert Douglas Sparks
The Odessa American (Dec. 16, 1972)
Added: 3/30/07; Last Updated: 7/26/16
Questions or comments? Please contact appropriate member of the Area Team
** Listed information is from the time of disappearance.