ABOVE THE ATLANTIC OCEAN (AP) -- Scouring the vast ocean expanse off Florida for two missing teen boaters is a long, tedious mission for the eight-person crew of the C-130 Hercules Coast Guard plane based out of Clearwater.
On Tuesday morning, the flight crew -- including a public affairs officer and an Associated Press reporter -- left Florida's Gulf coast at midmorning and flew eastward.
Once the plane cleared the state's other coast and was over the Atlantic, it dropped to 500 feet (150 meters) above the murky ocean. The crew eased open the back cargo ramp and two men flopped on their bellies so they could search the sea below.
It wasn't an easy task. Around noon, the water was the same gray-blue as the sky; the horizon invisible, hazy. Spotting something in the water involves a little luck and a lot of training and experience.
"You search like it's your mom out there," Petty Officer Garrett Peck said.
The Coast Guard spent a fifth day searching for the boys while their families coordinated air searches of their own, insistent that Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were competent seamen and athletic young men who still could be found alive.
But the relentless hunt by sea and air turned up no clue where the 14-year-olds might have drifted from their capsized boat. David Schuhlein, a Coast Guard spokesman based in Clearwater, Florida, told the AP that Coast Guard searchers had found nothing during the day.
The long days aboard the C-130 mean the crew must be focused and determined, Lt. Janelle Setta said.
After nearly 10 hours of flying, without success, the crew looked bleary and tired as the plane diverted around a lightning storm on its way home.
The Coast Guard said crews would continue focusing on waters off northern Florida and southern Georgia into Wednesday.
"As time goes on, certainly the probability of finding someone alive does decrease, but we're still within the timeframe where it's definitely possible to find somebody alive," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss, noting others have survived even a week at sea. "We know it can happen and we're hoping it happens again."
Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky contributed to this report.