He was returning from a Christmas and New Year holiday with his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni, and two friends - Elda Scalvenzi and Guido Foresti. Two Venezuelan pilots were also on board.
According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, the pilot of the twin-motored Britten Norman BN2 Islander plane, dating from 1968, was 72-year-old German Merchan.
Another plane with eight Italians on board is reported to have disappeared exactly five years ago, on 4 January 2008. Only a single body - that of the co-pilot - was ever found.