The aircraft was reported to have taken off from Essex Airport, New Jersey, with Mr Kennedy at the controls. He had recently broken an ankle in a gliding accident and there was speculation that his injury might have interfered with his manipulation of the plane's foot controls.
It was thought that the Piper Saratoga might have gone down off the eastern tip of Long Island on the final leg of its journey. The US Coast Guard reported spotting debris in the sea.
Kennedy, his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister, were on the way to the wedding of his cousin Rory at the fabled Kennedy compound at Hyannisport, Massachusetts, yesterday. It has been postponed.
An intensive search involving military aircraft and ships was launched. Officials said the last radio contact with the plane had suggested it was close to its destination.Reuse content