The pilot of a scenic flight that vanished over Queensland waters made an urgent distress call moments before losing contact with flight controllers.

A 70-year-old man and a 52-year-old passenger were on a flight to Moreton Island when their hired plane disappeared on Wednesday.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday, Whiskey November Romeo,” were the frantic words of the 70-year-old pilot at about 4.30pm on Wednesday.

He did not respond to repeated attempts from officials to make further contact in the audio obtained by the Seven Network.

Debris from the hired aircraft was found between the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Island about four hours after the crash.

The pair had been due to return to Caloundra.

The distress call sparked a major search involving water police, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, helicopters and local fishing trawlers.

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Multiple helicopters and boats searched the area to the north of the island overnight.

However, the search was called off at about midnight due to rough weather conditions.

Twelve vessels including three water police vessels, four Volunteer Coast Guard vessels, two jet skis and a number of fishing trawlers have been scouring a 550sq km area since first light on Thursday.

Air assets assisting with the search include the AMSA Challenger jet, and six helicopters, while officers search on foot.